by Mark Caswell, Jr.Nov 12, 2016
Darren Archibald’s overtime winner landed the Utica Comets a 3-2 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Saturday evening. The victory snapped the Utica Comets four-game losing streak and improved their record to 3-8-1-0.
Rookie goaltender Thatcher Demko earned his first professional victory with a 29-save performance. Curtis Valk (1-2-3) posted a career-high three-point game, while Archibald (2-0-2) potted two goals for his sixth career multi-goal game.
For the second straight game the Comets surrendered a goal in the game’s opening three minutes when Tanner Glass snuck a shot past Demko just 2:22 into the game. Despite outshooting the Wolf Pack 12-8 in the period, the Comets ended the first period down 1-0.
The Comets knotted the game at 1-1 when Valk struck for the first time in The AUD late in the second. Valk received a pass from Negrin and wristed a shot past Hellberg’s leg pad after he raced by a Wolf Pack defender. David Shields was credited with the secondary assist.
1:11 into the third period, the Wolfpack’s re-grabbed the lead when Mat Bodie scored on the power play. Prior to that power-play goal, the Comets had successfully killed off 12 of their last 13 penalties.
The lead was short-lived as just over two minutes later the Comets struck again. Valk capitalized on a defensive zone turnover from the Wolf Pack and quickly dished it across the crease to Darren Archibald, who fired a shot past the sprawled-out goaltender.
Late in the third, with the game still deadlocked at 2-2, the Comets withstood two full minutes of a 5-on-3 power play for the Wolf Pack. Several big saves by Demko, and blocked shots by the penalty-killing unit sent the game to overtime.
Just 34 seconds in, Archibald put the finishing touches on Valk’s pass to the slot to give the Comets their first home win of the season.
The Comets power play went 0-for-3 on the night, while the penalty-killing unit was successful on seven of the Wolf Pack’s eight opportunities.
The Comets six game homestand continues Wednesday night. The Comets welcome the Hershey Bears to The AUD for the first time this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
UTICA COMETS (2-8-1-0) vs. HARTFORD WOLF PACK (3-7-1-0)
Utica Memorial Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.
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Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets look to snap a season-high four game skid when the Hartford Wolf Pack make their first trip to the Utica Memorial Auditorium tonight. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m..
The two-win Comets enter tonight’s contest in seventh place in the North Division with five points in 11 games, while the Wolf Pack have collected 7 points in 11 games, good for last place in the Atlantic Division.
Last Game: The Utica Comets fell into an early hole that they could not dig themselves out of en route to a 4-1 loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday evening at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Captain Carter Bancks (1-0-1) potted the Comets lone tally on the evening while Alexandre Grenier (0-1-1) picked up an assist to extend his point streak to four games. Richard Bachman recorded the loss with a 24-save performance in his third consecutive start.
Head-to-Head: The Comets are 1-0-0-0 against the Wolf Pack this season, and 2-2-0-1 all-time.
Scouting the Wolf Pack: Losers of their last six games (0-5-1-0), the Wolf Pack enter tonight’s contest like the Comets – limping. The New York Rangers American Hockey League affiliate have allowed a league-high 49 goals, and possess the league’s second worst power play (9.4%) unit. Earlier this week, the Pack’s line-up took a bit of a hit when the Rangers traded former 10th overall draft pick, defenseman Dylan McIlrath, to the Florida Panthers. Offensively, the Pack are led by Marek Hrivik (5-5-10), and former Comets forward Nicklas Jensen (4-4-8). In net, former 2015 AHL All-Star Magnus Hellberg has taken the lion’s share of starts (7), and owns a 3-2-1-0 record to go along with a 3.63 goals against average, and a .879 save percentage.
Surprise Addition: On Wednesday, Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, surprised Comets fans with the assignment of former sixth overall draft pick, Jake Virtanen, to the Comets. Virtanen, 20, has appeared in 10 games with the Canucks this season registering an assist (0-1-1) along with two penalty minutes. In his debut NHL season in 2015-16, Virtanen appeared in 55 games for Vancouver where he collected 13 points (7-6-13) and ranked second on the team in hits with 128. He also appeared in two games for Utica on a conditioning stint and represented Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Meet Mr. Robak: Although his Comets debut came last week in Syracuse, tonight highlights the first time the hometown fans can welcome the team’s newest addition, Colby Robak. The 26-year old defenseman, started the season with the Stockton Heat and recorded five points (0-5-5), six penalty minutes, and a +8 rating in six games. His plus-8 rating was tied with three other players for the AHL lead for plus/minus at the time of his signing in Utica. The 2011-12 AHL All-Star has collected 138 points (35-103-138) in 376 career American Hockey League games with the Rochester Americans, San Antonio Rampage, Norfolk Admirals, and Stockton Heat.
Injury Report: After spending the previous week practicing with red non-contact jerseys, forward Cole Cassels and defenseman Tom Nilsson returned to team activities in practice this week. Cassels made his return to the Comets line-up last night after missing seven games with an upper body injury.
Power Play Bonanza: Converting at a 21.2% rate (11 for 52), the Comets power play has been red hot to start the season and is ranked eighth in the league.
Next Game: The Comets six game homestand continues Wednesday night at The AUD. The Comets welcome the Hershey Bears to The AUD for the first time this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.