Comets Claim Third Consecutive Galaxy Cup
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 16, 2016
The Utica Comets weathered losing three different leads through the course of the game, and needed just 33 seconds of extra time to take the coveted Galaxy Cup Trophy home with a 4-3 win over the Syracuse Crunch. With a series record of 6-4-0-0, the Comets claimed their third consecutive Galaxy Cup title with a 12-9 edge in points.
Michael Zalewski (2-1-3), and Brendan Gaunce (1-2-3) enjoyed three-point nights while Taylor Fedun (0-2-2) chipped in a multi-point game with two assists. Richard Bachman made 32 saves for his 101st career American Hockey League victory. Friesen's short-handed marker in the second period was the Comets 17th short-handed goal of the season, the most scored by any team in the AHL.
The Comets wasted no time getting on the board, just 18 seconds in fact, courtesy of a perfectly placed wrist shot from Zalewski. The New Hartford, NY native received a pass from Brendan Gaunce and expertly ripped a wrist shot from a step above the hashmarks past Gudlevskis outstretched glove for his 15th goal of the season. Curtis Valk also assisted on the tally.
Less than five minutes later the Crunch tied it up when Ben Thomas's shot from the point snaked its way through traffic and in to the net.
With 5:50 remaining in the second frame the Comets claimed their second lead of the night. While the Comets killed a Crunch two-man advantage, Alex Friesen intercepted Joel Vermin's pass and was off to the races. The first Comets penalty expired shortly before Friesen's wrister escaped Gudlevskis paddle for his 14th goal of the season.
However, the lead was short-lived as Matthew Peca stuffed home a rebound on his third whack just 3:02 into the third period to tie the game at 2-2.
The Comets answered right back when Taylor Fedun's perfect breakout pass through two Crunch defenders sprung Zalewski on a partial breakaway. Zalewski's wrist shot beat Gudlevskis on the shortside for his second goal of the night.
Just like most Comets-Crunch match-ups this game was rich with the dramatics. Peca scored his second of the night after his shot from the top of the slot snuck past a screen Richard Bachman to tie the game at 3-3 with 5:56 to play.
After Bachman turned aside a Crunch shot on goal, Fedun pounced on the loose puck and sprung Zalewski and Gaunce on a two-on-one fast break. Gaunce's first slid the puck to Zalewski who saw his chance get turned aside before Brendan Gaunce cleaned up the rebound for his 16th goal of the season.
With the win the Comets record improves to 38-25-8-4.
The Comets wrap up the regular season schedule with a matinee tilt against the Binghamton Senators at The AUD tomorrow afternoon. Fan Appreciation Weekend will conclude with a plethora of activity during tomorrow’s game. The Save of the Day Foundation will be selling 1,000 mystery boxes behind section 204 when doors open. Prior to puck drop, the Comets will announce their 2015-16 awards winners. Stick around after the game for the live auction of the Comets green alternate sweaters. Puck drop is scheduled for 3pm.
Tonight’s Game: The 2016 rendition of the Galaxy Cup rivalry between the Utica Comets and the Syracuse Crunch wraps up tonight at the War Memorial Arena in downtown Syracuse. The Comets entire tonight’s match-up with a 5-4-0-0 series edge. The Comets have outscored the Crunch 27-23 in the series, which serves as the first tiebreaker for the Galaxy Cup.
The Comets enter tonight’s game sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 86 points. Due to the crossover team from the Atlantic Division, and the AHL’s new playoff format, the Comets trail the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Portland Pirates by a point for playoff positioning. The Comets do not hold tiebreakers over either team.
Last Game: The Utica Comets stormed back in the third period to upend the Syracuse Crunch 3-1 Friday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Clad in their lucky green sweaters, the Comets entered the third period trailing 1-0. Two power-play goals, and their league-leading 16th short-handed goal of the season, powered the Comets to a 5-4-0-0 edge in the Galaxy Cup series.
Ronalds Kenins (1-0-1), Joseph LaBate (1-0-1), and Andrey Pedan (1-0-1) provided the goals for the home team, while Joe Cannata turned aside 18 of the Crunch’s 19 shots on goal. Brendan Gaunce (0-1-1) recorded an assist in his first game back with the Comets. Alexandre Grenier (0-1-1) inched closer to a 50-point season with his 48th point of the season.
Scouting the Crunch: Last weekend the Crunch took three out of four points against the two top teams in the North Division, the Albany Devils (SOL) and the Toronto Marlies (SOW). Before last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning American Hockey League affiliate had won the last three games against the Comets after falling into a 4-1-0-0 hole against their rival to starting the season. Paving the way in points (54), and assists (43) is Tanner Richard (11-43-54). The Crunch’s roster boasts three twenty goal-scorers, but will only have two available tonight in the form of Jeff Tambellini (27-19-46) and Tye McGinn (20-24-44). The third, Mike Blunden (21-17-38) is on recall with Tampa Bay. AHL All-Star goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis has taken the lion’s share of games in net with 40 appearances. His 2.80 goals against average, and .908 save percentage leads the team.
Iron Man: Comets forward Carter Bancks enters tonight’s game as just one 13 players that can finish the season playing all 76 games for one team this season, and the only player from the North Division. Across the board Bancks has set career highs in games played (74), goals (14), assists (24), and points (38). Seven players from the Pacific Division have a chance of playing in all 66 games for their team.
Super Joe: Joseph LaBate produced nine points (5-5-10) over a 15 game stretch from March 12 to April 15, following just 10 points (5-5-10) in his first 48 games of the season. The rookie forward has found a niche as being the man creating havoc at the top of the crease on the power play. Over the past month he has been the direct cause of several Comets goals without being credited with a point on the play.
Here’s the Deal: The Comets can know their Calder Cup Playoffs first-round opponent as soon as tonight. Should either of the following two situations play out, the Comets will be Toronto-bound for their first round match-up.
-A Utica regulation loss at Syracuse AND a Portland point at Springfield AND a Bridgeport point at Albany.
-A Utica OTL/SOL at Syracuse AND a Portland win at Springfield AND a Bridgeport win at Albany.
Next Game: The Comets wrap up the regular season schedule with a matinee tilt against the Binghamton Senators at The AUD tomorrow afternoon. Puck drop is scheduled for 3pm.