Comets Stumble Late Against Crunch

Crunch Storm Back to Down the Comets

by Mark Caswell, Jr.

Apr 3, 2016

In a back and forth contest that saw three lead changes and two ties, the Syracuse Crunch defeated the Utica Comets 7-3, after pulling away in the third period to tie the Galaxy Cup series at 4-4.

T.J. Hensick (0-2-2) and Jon Landry (0-2-2) had multi point games for the Comets, while Joseph LaBate (1-0-1), Carter Bancks (1-0-1), and Alex Friesen (1-0-1) had the Utica goals.

The Comets kicked off the game’s scoring when they took advantage of a power play opportunity 9:02 into the first period. Jon Landry sent a pass to Hensick, who was camped on the right side of the ice. Hensick fired a wrist shot that zipped over the right shoulder of Gudlevskis after be redirected by Joseph LaBate.

The second period saw an uptick in action as things got physical, and the team’s combined for five goals in an 8:39 stretch.

Bancks extended the Utica lead to 2-0, 5:11 into the second period. Hensick threw a pass across the crease to Bancks, who was stationed on the goal line. Bancks squeezed a shot through the legs of Gudlevskis for his 14th goal of the season.

The Comets appeared to have all the momentum, and a power play, after Luke Witkowski viciously jumped an unsuspecting Jon Landry and found himself in the sin bin for 12 minutes. However, appearances can be deceiving and the game’s momentum took a giant swing in the visitor’s favor.

While short-handed, the Crunch cut the Comets lead to 2-1. After an offensive miscue on the power play, Matthew Peca sent a pass to Joel Vermin who got free on a breakaway and fired a shot past Joe Cannata.

Syracuse tied it just two minutes later on a goal when Cameron Darcy stole the puck from Joe Cannata behind the net and deposited it into the vacated net.

Just 58 seconds later, the Crunch took their first lead of the night. Syracuse worked the puck around in the Comets zone before Vermin rifled a shot that beat the stick of Cannata.

Three minutes after that the Comets stormed right back and knotted the game 3-3. On the power play, Grenier one-timed a shot on net that was turned aside by Gudlevskis, but Friesen was there to clean it up off the rebound to tie the game at three.

Syracuse dominated the third period to the tune of 16-5 in shots, and 4-0 in goals. Adam Erne got the visiting team going after he streaked down the slot and redirected Daniel Walcott’s centering feed past Cannata.

1:38 later Henri Ikonen extended the Crunch lead to 5-3 when he finished off a Tanner Richard pass as Cannata was pushed to the back of the net. Jeff Tambellini added two more to the Crunch’s tally, one being an empty net goal, to cap off the game’s scoring.

Utica finished with 28 shots on goal, and the Crunch had 31 shots. Cannata had 24 saves for Utica, and Gudlevskis saved 25 shots for Syracuse.

With the loss, Utica fell to 35-24-7-4, while the crunch improve to 31-27-10-3.

The Comets return to The AUD for a tilt against the Binghamton Senators on Wednesday night. Puck drop is slated for 7pm.

SYRACUSE CRUNCH (30-27-10-3) vs UTICA COMETS (35-23-7-4)
Utica Memorial Auditorium, 3pm
Watch Live: AHL Live | Listen Live: Radio: 94.9 K-ROCK, Desktop or Mobile

Tonight’s Game: If everything falls right, the Utica Comets can clinch their second consecutive playoff appearance, win the Galaxy Cup, and eliminate the Syracuse Crunch from the playoffs contention this afternoon. A regulation win coupled with a Rochester Americans loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins, seals the Comets playoff bid, while a regulation win would give the club their third consecutive Galaxy Cup.

The Comets enter tonight’s game sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 81 points, while the Crunch are eight points back of the Comets with 73 points.

Last Game:The Utica Comets jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead and never looked back en route to defeating the Binghamton Senators 4-1 Saturday night at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. The Comets, on a four-game winning streak, saw their magic number to clinch a playoff spot get reduced to just five points after the Syracuse Crunch lost to the Rochester Americans 5-1.

Joseph LaBate (2-0-2), Taylor Fedun (1-1-2), and T.J. Hensick (0-2-2) posted multi-point nights, while Carter Bancks scored his 13th of the season. Richard Bachman made 26 saves for his 15th win of the season. The power-play unit clicked twice in four chances, while the penalty-killing unit was a perfect 4-for-4.

Scouting the Crunch: The Crunch left The AUD last Wednesday night with a 3-1 victory, a three-game win streak, and more importantly, just three points back of the Comets for the last guaranteed playoff spot in the North Division. They got as close as two points after extending their win streak to five games, before losing their last two games and being pushed to eight points behind the Comets, and to the brink of elimination. Since returning to the Crunch from a suspension, Jonathan Drouin (11-2-13) has scored nine goals in 10 games, and is currently riding a five-game goal scoring streak. Drouin, the third overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft missed the Mar. 23rd game in Utica due to a missed meeting. Tanner Richard (10-40-50) leads the Crunch in points and assists, while Jeff Tambellini (24-19-43) paces the team in goals. Expected to start for the Crunch is AHL All-Star goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis who has compiled a 14-11-6 record, a 2.85 goals against average, and a .907 save percentage.

Scoring Surge: Carter Bancks scored 43 seconds into the second period of last night’s contest, which gave the Comets eight straight goals going back to the start of the third period on Friday night. Even more impressive, the Comets scored those eight goals while firing just 27 shots on goal; or a goal per every 3.4 shots. With 205 goals on 2,112 shots this season, the Comets average a goal per every 10.3 shots.

Zalewski’s Revenge: After missing 11 games due to an upper body injury suffered on March 4 against Toronto, Zalewski returned with a short-handed goal that kicked off the Comets comeback on Tuesday night. The goal, scored by #14, was Zalewski’s 14th of the year, served as the Comets league-leading 14th short-handed goal of the year, and was also the 14th short-handed goal allowed by the Amerks (league-most).

Cold-Blooded Killers: The Comets penalty-killing unit is the best in the league at home with a success rate of 91.4%. The unit has killed 70 of their last 75 penalties at The AUD (93.1%). Overall, the Comets penalty-kill is sixth in the league with an 86.1% conversion rate and have killed off 71 of their opponent’s last 76 power-play opportunities.

Next Game: The Comets return to The AUD for a tilt against the Binghamton Senators on Wednesday night. Puck drop is slated for 7pm.

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