Comets Snap Skid in Explosive Fashion
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Mar 26, 2016
The Utica Comets offense exploded for five goals in a 5-1 win over the Binghamton Senators at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday evening. The win snapped the Comets five game losing streak and reduced their magic number to 17 points for the coveted third playoff spot in the North Division.
Kellen Jones (1-1-2), and Curtis Valk (1-1-2) enjoyed multi-point nights, while Ronalds Kenins (1-0-1), T.J. Hensick (1-0-1), and Jon Landry (1-0-1) also added goals. Joe Cannata made 35 saves in his 18th win of the season.
The Comets kicked off the scoring after a Ronalds Kenins slashing minor nullified the Comets first power-play attempt. Playing short-handed, Carter Bancks forced an offensive zone turnover along the half wall. Bancks collected the puck and quickly found Kellen Jones as he streaked into the zone. With a defender in his face, Jones flicked a shot over the blocker of O'Connor for his third goal of the season, and second as a Comet.
The Comets doubled down on their lead on their 10th shot of the game just 1:43 into the second period. As he slid across the slot on one knee, Ronalds Kenins one-timed a feed from Milos Bubela past the glove of O'Connor to give the Comets a 2-0 lead. The assist was Bubela's first professional point since joining the Comets on an Amateur Tryout Contract last week.
The Comets were once again able to double their lead with two firsts just five minutes apart.
First, Curtis Valk recorded his first career American Hockey League goal with a slick wrist shot from the slot that raced by the leg pad of the Senators' goaltender.
T.J. Hensick followed that up with his first goal as a member of the Comets just five minutes later. On a two-on-one, Kellen Jones' pass across the crease to Carter Bancks was blocked by a sliding Senators' defender. O'Connor, who had slid to the far side of the crease to challenge the shot, found himself out of position and could not regroup before Hensick jammed the loose puck into the short side.
The Senators pulled O'Connor in favor of Chris Driedger to start the third, however, just 2:03 into the period Jon Landry gave the Comets a 5-0 lead when his wrist shot from the point snuck through traffic and into the net. Curtis Valk and Alexandre Grenier assisted on the goal.
Joe Cannata's shutout bid lasted 29 shots, 43 minutes, and 45 seconds. David Dziurzynski's wrist shot from the point clanked off the crossbar and in on the Senators' 30th shot of the contest.
With the win the Comets record improves to 32-23-7-4.
The Comets return home for an important playoff showdown against the Rochester Americans on Tuesday night at The AUD. The Americans entered Saturday night’s game against the Syracuse Crunch just four points behind the Comets for the third, and possibly final, playoff spot in the North Division. Puck drop is set for 7pm.
Tonight’s Game: For the first time since March 13, the Utica Comets hit the road for an away game. Tonight, the Comets head south to take on the Binghamton Senators at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena at 7:15pm.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 73 points, while the Senators are in last place in the division with 60 points. The Comets magic number to clinch a playoff spot resides at 19 points with 11 games to go.
Last Game: After suffering a 2-1 overtime loss to the Hershey Bears on Friday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, the Utica Comets grabbed just three points during their season-high five-game home stand.
Jordan Subban (1-0-1), Carter Bancks (0-1-1), and T.J. Hensick (0-1-1) each recorded a point for the Comets in the loss. Richard Bachman kept the Comets in the game with some spectacular saves, stopping 29 shots for Utica.
Scouting the Senators: Don’t let their position in the standings fool you, the new-look Binghamton Senators are sporting a winning record (6-3-2-0) since the Trade Deadline that saw the Senators exchange seven players with the Rochester Americans. Two of the players acquired, Phil Varone (18-29-47) and Jason Akeson (11-34-45), immediately became the top two point-scorers for the last place club. Varone has collected 15 points (5-10-15) in 12 games since swapping New York State team sweaters. Although goaltender Chris Driedger has played in more games (33), the Comets have seen Matt O’Connor in three of the team’s four games this season. In those games, O’Connor is 1-2-0-0, with a 3.93 goals against average and an .889 save percentage..
Banck On Carter:
With five points (2-3-5) in his last six games, the second-year Comets forward has eclipsed 30 points and double-digit goals for the first time in his American Hockey League career. Bancks’ previous career-high for points was 19 (5-14-19), set in 2010-11 with the Abbotsford Heat. With 31 points (11-20-31) in 64 games, Bancks is second on the active team in points, two behind Jordan Subban, and goals, just two behind Mike Zalewski). He is the only Comets player this season to appear in every game thus far.
Cold-Blooded Killers: The Comets penalty-killing unit is the best in the league at home with a success rate of 91.6%. The unit has killed 63 of their last 67 penalties at home (94%), including 45 of their last 49. Overall, the Comets penalty-kill is fifth in the league with an 85.7% conversion rate and have killed off 57 of their opponent’s last 61 power-play opportunities.
Next Game: The return home for an important playoff showdown against the Rochester Americans on Tuesday night at The AUD. Puck drop is set for 7pm.