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Gudlevskis and Crunch Withstand Comets Onslaught

by Mark Caswell, Jr.

Nov 14, 2015

Despite outshooting the Syracuse Crunch 48-28, the Utica Comets lost 2-1 Saturday night at the War Memorial at the OnCenter. The Galaxy Cup series is now knotted at two points apiece.

Michael Zalewski (1-0-1) scored his third goal in four games, while Joe Cannata made 26 saves in the loss for the Comets.

It took over 30 minutes of game time for the scoreless tie to be broken. Syracuse Crunch’s Nikita Nesterov let loose a slap shot from the point that Cannata gathered up. A split-second later the puck trickled out from the goaltender’s equipment and behind him. Joel Vermin pounced on the loose puck to stake the Crunch to an early 1-0 lead.

90 seconds later Zalewski erased the Crunch’s lead with his third goal of the season. From just inside the blue line, Zalewski unleashed a slap shot that whizzed by Kristers Gudlevskis before the goaltender even had a chance to move. Andrey Pedan, and Taylor Fedun recorded assists on the goal.

The Crunch regained their lead just a minute into the third period when Matthew Peca walked the puck out from the corner, weaved around a Comets defender and slipped a wrist shot under the glove of Cannata.

With the loss the Comets record fell to 5-6-1-1 on the season, while the win improved the Crunch’s record to 7-4-0-1 this season. The Comets power play failed to convert on four chances, and the penalty-killing unit was successful four out of five times.

The Comets next game is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 20 when they welcome the Hartford Wolf Pack to the Utica Memorial Auditorium for the first time ever. The Wolf Pack won the only game ever played between the two franchises back on Oct. 17 at the XL Center, by a score of 3-0. Puck drop is scheduled for 7p.m.

UTICA COMETS (5-5-1-1) @ SYRACUSE CRUNCH (6-4-0-1)
War Memorial at the OnCenter, 7 pm
Watch Live: AHL Live | Listen Live: Radio: 94.9 K-ROCK,  Desktop or Mobile

Tonight’s Game: The I-90 rivalry gets reignited once again tonight as the Comets head west to take on the Syracuse Crunch. Puck drop is set for 7p.m. from the War Memorial at the OnCenter.

The Comets currently sit in fifth place in the North Division, nine points behind the first place Toronto Marlies, who have played two more games than Utica. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate sit in fourth place, one spot ahead of the Comets, with 13 points, in 11 games.

Crunch-ing the Numbers: The Comets have gone 6-2-2-1 against the Crunch since the 2013 season, and are 2-2-1-1 on the road against Syracuse in that time. Utica went 3-2-1-0 against the Crunch last season, and are off to a 1-0-0-0 start vs them this season. The two teams compete for the Galaxy Cup, which is awarded to the team that has accumulated the most points over the teams’ season series. The Comets have taken home the Galaxy Cup in both of its years of existence.

Behind Enemy Lines: Since the Comets beat their arch rival on Oct. 24 at The AUD, the Crunch have collected nine out of a possible 12 points with wins over Toronto, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, and Binghamton. Leading the way in goals (6), points (9), plus/minus (+4) and shots (38) is right winger Jonathan Marchessault. Anthony DeAngelo (3-6-9) and Jeff Tambellini (4-4-8) come into the week in second and third, respectively. In net, four different goaltenders have started a game for Syracuse. Andrei Vasilevskiy is a perfect 2-0-0-0, with a 1.00 goals against average, and a .966 save percentage. Latvian Olympian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, has played in three games so far, and has posted a 2-1-0-0 record, to go along with a 2.69 goals against average, and a .902 save percentage.

Chart Topping: Sophomore forward Hunter Shinkaruk netted his league-leading 10th goal of the season last night. The goal moved him into a tie with Providence Bruins’ forward Frank Vatrano. The Vancouver Canucks’ 24th overall draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Level Draft enjoyed a 31-point rookie season last year with 16 goals in 74 games.

Gooble Gobble, One of Us: The last time Richard Bachman appeared in an American Hockey League game was Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals of the Calder Cup Playoffs at The AUD. Bachman, a member of the then-enemy, Oklahoma City Barons, dazzled and frustrated Comets fans and almost single-handedly eliminated the Comets from the post-season. Since then, the goaltender signed with the Canucks’ organization as a free agent. He recorded a win in his lone appearance for the Canucks this season, stopping 28 of the Arizona Coyotes’ 31 shots on goal on Oct. 15. The 2015 American Hockey League All-Star played the majority of last season with the Barons where he finished with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 23 games. He also played in seven games for the Edmonton Oilers, posting a 2.84 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. (Bonus points if you get the paragraph title reference.)

The Power of J: Goaltender Richard Bachman started last night’s game vs. the Springfield Falcons. It is just the fourth in the franchise’s history that the Comets net was occupied by a goaltender who’s first name did not start with the letter “J” (Joacim Eriksson, Joe Cannata, Jacob Markstrom). In such games the Comets are 0-4 all-time. Richard Bachman, Mathieu Corbeil, Pat Nagle, and Clay Will each suffered a defeat in their lone starts.

Next Game: The Comets return to the comfy confines of The AUD on Friday, Nov. 20 to take on the Hartford Wolf Pack. It will be the Wolf Pack’s first game in Utica. The game is already sold out, and puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.

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