Comets Settle for One Point
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Mar 20, 2016
The Utica Comets wrapped up their three-in-three weekend with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Binghamton Senators Sunday afternoon at The AUD. The point knocked Utica’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to 22 points.
Joseph LaBate (1-1-2) and Carter Bancks (1-0-1) handled the scoring for the Comets, while Joe Cannata made 16 saves in the loss. The Comets fired a season-high 48 shots on goal, matching their total from their Nov. 14 game vs the Syracuse Crunch. The Comets power play clicked twice in seven tries, and the penalty-killing unit had a perfect night killing all three of the Senators power-play opportunities.
The Comets and Senators jumped out to a fast-paced first period. The home team started the game buzzing as they peppered Senators’ goalie Matt O’Connor with 18 shots in just the first period. By comparison, the Comets limited the Senators to 19 shots on goal the entire game.
Joe Cannata came up big early on in the game. Although he only faced six shots in the first stanza, Cannata was tested with a penalty shot. Binghamton’s Fredrik Claesson was awarded the penalty shot after he picked up a puck on his way out of the penalty box and was hooked by Comets defenseman Jordan Subban. Cannata played a big role in the Comets first period lead as he blockered away the point-blank shot by Claesson.
Not long after the penalty shot the Comets jumped out to their first lead of the day on a power-play goal from Joseph LaBate. The shot, taken by Taylor Fedun from the point, was redirected by Alex Friesen and then again by LaBate in front at 4:14 of the 1st.
Binghamton hit the ice hard for the 2nd period as Phil Varone tied the score at 1-1 after he deflected a puck over the shoulder of goaltender Cannata just two minutes into the second.
The Comets were able to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity midway through the 2nd period to regain their one goal lead. Carter Bancks netted his 11th goal of the season off of a rebound from Senators’ goaltender Matt O’Connor. Joseph LaBate nabbed his second point of the game as it was his initial shot from the point that Bancks buried to take the lead. Ronalds Kenins also collected a point for his assist.
The Senators responded within minutes to tie the game at 2-2 after a bouncing puck was mishandled in the Comets zone. Senator’s Phil Varone quickly swooped in and wristed it past Cannata for an unassisted goal with 12:14 to play in the 2nd period.
Neither team could score in the third, or the overtime period.
Alex Friesen was able to beat Matt O’Connor, however, the Comets ultimately fell to the Senators as both Phil Varone and Casey Bailey found the back of the net for Binghamton.
The Comets record fell to 31-22-6-5 with the loss.
The Comets can seal the deal and win their third consecutive Galaxy Cup with a win over the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday evening at The AUD. The Comets are 4-2-0-0 vs their rival to the West this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.
Tonight’s Game: The Comets three-in-three home weekend concludes with a matinee tilt against the Binghamton Senators today at The AUD. Puck drop is scheduled for 3p.m.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 71 points, while the Senators are entrenched in last place with 57 points. The Comets magic number to clinch a playoff spot resides at 23 points with 14 games to go.
Last Game: The Utica Comets fell behind early and could not mount a comeback in a 5-1 loss to the Albany Devils on Saturday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. It was the Comets first regulation loss at home in 11 games, dating back to Jan. 13.
Alex Friesen (1-0-1) scored halfway into the second period to stop his scoreless drought at 21 games, while Richard Bachman turned aside 27 of the Devils 32 shots on goal in the loss.
Scouting the Senators: Don’t let their position in the standings fool you, the new-look Binghamton Senators are sporting a winning record (5-2-1-0) since the Trade Deadline that saw the Senators exchange seven players with the Rochester Americans. Two of the players acquired, Phil Varone (17-29-46) and Jason Akeson (11-32-43), immediately became the top two point-scorers for the last place club. Varone, fresh off of a four point night last night, has collected 14 points (4-10-14) in nine games, since swapping New York State team sweaters. Although goaltender Chris Driedger has played in more games (32), the Comets have seen Matt O’Connor in two of the team’s three games this season. In those games, O’Connor is 0-2-0-0, with a 5.07 goals against average and a .833 save percentage.
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 52 of their last 55 penalties at home (94.5%), including 34 of their last 37. Overall, the Comets penalty-kill is seventh in the league with an 85.4% conversion rate and have killed off 46 of their opponent’s last 49 power-play opportunities.
Lain’s Back Kellan Lain, a fan-favorite who was traded during the beginning of the 2014-15 season returned yesterday when he signed a PTO with the Comets. With the Comets during the inaugural season and 10 games during the 2014-15 season, he recorded 20 points (7-13-20) with Utica before being traded to Oklahoma City in exchange for Will Acton. Lain appeared in two games for the Barons before he suffered a season-ending injury. He appeared in 14 games this season with the Iowa Wild and collected two goals and an assist along with 17 penalty minutes.
Shuffling the Deck: The Comets have signed forward Evan Rankin and defenseman William Wrenn to professional tryout contracts (PTO). In addition, Conacher announced that the Comets have signed center Milos Bubela to an amateur tryout contract (ATO).
Next Game: The Comets can seal the deal and win their third consecutive Galaxy Cup with a win over the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday evening at The AUD. The Comets are 4-2-0-0 vs their rival to the West this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.
Team Photo Giveaways: Every fan in attendance will receive a team signed photo upon entrance. Team photos are courtesy of Avalon Document Services.
Post-game Autograph Session: Stick around after the game to meet your favorite Comets players! The autograph session will be held on the ice following the game.
Fans that want to participate in the post-game autograph session will be directed to use the staircase between sections 201 and 202 to access the on-ice autograph session immediately following the game.
Prior to accessing the autograph session, all fans will be required to sign a waiver. The Comets strongly encourage fans to bring a pre-signed waiver to the game, via the link below, and to wear appropriate footwear for walking on the ice.
Waiver: Click Here