Comets Tripped Up by Bears
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Nov 16, 2016
The Utica Comets were unable to fight out of an early 2-0 deficit against the Hershey Bears, and dropped a 4-2 decision on Wednesday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The loss brings the Comets record to 3-9-1-0.
Darren Archibald (1-1-2) and Curtis Valk (1-1-2) each tallied a goal and an assist for the second straight game. David Shields (0-1-1) and Cody Kunyk (0-1-1) also chipped in an assist each, and goaltender Richard Bachman stopped 27 of the 31 Bears shots on goal.
Utica controlled play throughout the game’s first nine minutes, however, it was Hershey that would break the scoreless tie. Liam O’Brien netted his first goal of the year, with Domenic Monardo and Christian Djoos picking up the assists with 11:33 to go in the opening period.
Late in the first period the Bears doubled down on their early with a power-play goal. With Chad Billins and Cole Cassels in the penalty box, Chris Bourque extended the Bears’ lead to 2-0 with a slap shot from the top of the circles. Paul Carey and Jakub Vrana tallied the assists.
Utica again started out strong and came out blazing to begin the middle frame, but an untimely tripping penalty to Colby Robak quelled their momentum. Hershey was unable to take advantage, and two minutes after the penalty expired, Valk regained the momentum put the Comets on the board after Archibald made a diving effort to keep possession.
The lead was short-lived as Hershey restored their two-goal lead five minutes later as Monardo found a wide open Nathan Walker in the slot who buried it past Bachman. The score would remain 3-1 after 40 minutes.
Archibald brought the Comets back to within one just 1:25 into the third period, when he potted the rebound on a shot from Shields.
The Comets pressed hard looking for the equalizer, killing off back-to-back minors in the process, but they couldn’t find the back of the net.
With eight minutes left to play Walker scored his second goal of the game for the Bears with 7:56 remaining to give Hershey a 4-2 lead and the eventual victory.
The Comets power play went cold, going 0-4 on the night, while the penalty kill gave up one goal on six attempts.
The Comets continue their six game homestand Friday night at 7pm as they welcome the Springfield Thunderbirds to the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
UTICA COMETS (3-8-1-0) vs. HERSHEY BEARS (6-4-2-1)
Utica Memorial Auditorium, 7 p.m.
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Tonight’s Game: The Hershey Bears make their only trip to The AUD tonight for a contest against the Utica Comets. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The three-win Comets enter tonight’s contest in sixth place in the North Division with seven points in 12 games, while the Bears have collected 15 points in 13 games, good for fifth place in the Atlantic Division.
Last Game: 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 the club’s 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.
Head-to-Head: The Comets are 0-3-1-0 against the Bears all-time, with all four games being played during the 2015-16 season.
Scouting the Bears: Fresh off a trip to the Calder Cup Finals last season, the Bears returned 19 players, including the reigning American Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player and scoring leader, Chris Bourque. Bourque (1-11-12) has recorded a point in every game but three this season, including in seven of his last eight games. In net, the Bears take a different shape with two new goaltenders. Former Comets goaltender Joe Cannata has appeared in seven games and has collected a 4-1-2-0 record, with a 2.82 goals against average, and a .883 save percentage. Rookie goaltender, Vitek Vanecek, has played in six games and owns a record of 2-3-1-1, a 2.35 GAA, and a .920 save percentage.
The Valk Trilogy: Curtis Valk had quite the game Saturday evening, and had a hand on all three Comets goals. His second period goal was his first goal at The AUD, and kick-started the Comets comeback. Darren Archibald scored the club’s two other goals, with Valk getting the primary assist on each of them. Last season, Valk collected six points (2-4-6) in 12 games with the Comets. He also led the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL in points per game (1.10), with 33 points in 30 games.
The First of Many: Saturday’s exciting overtime victory landed rookie goaltender Thatcher Demko his first career professional victory, in his fifth try. Last season he appeared in 39 games with Boston College and posted a record of 27-8-4 with a 1.88 goals against average and a .935 save percentage.
Injury Report: After an awkward collision into the net, Mike Zalewski is day-to-day. Forwards Marco Roy and Wacey Hamilton, who returned to practice this week, could play this week. Defenseman Tom Nilsson is “close” to playing, according to head coach Travis Green.
Next Game: The Comets six game homestand continues Friday night at The AUD. The Comets welcome the Springfield Thunderbirds to The AUD for the first time this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.