Comets Drop Fourth Straight
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Mar 23, 2016
The Utica Comets extended their losing streak to four game after losing 3-1 to rival Syracuse Crunch, in a chippy affair Wednesday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The regulation to the Crunch was the Comets first of its kind on home ice to their Galaxy Cup rivals. The Galaxy Cup series now rests at 4-3-0-0, in Utica’s favor.
Alex Freisen (1-0-1), Ashton Sautner (0-1-1), and Ronalds Kenins (0-1-1) each recorded a point for the Comets, while Joe Cannata made 15 saves in his first regulation loss in 10 games.
After a scoreless first period that saw the teams combine for just 11 shots on goal and six penalty minutes, the second period got off to a raucous start.
The Comets found the game’s first goal just 4:12 into the second period. Kenins dug the puck out of a scuffle and poked it to Sautner, who was stationed at the point. Sautner wound up and unleashed a heavy slap shot on net that Friesen redirected past Gudlevskis for his 10th goal of the season.
Five minutes later the Crunch came back to tie it with 9:23 left in the second. Adam Erne came down the right side of the ice and put a wrist shot past Cannata’s stick to make it 1-1.
On the power play due to a controversial goaltender’s interference call on Brandon Marino, Syracuse came up with the game-winning goal with 59 seconds left in the period. After the Crunch worked the puck around, Matthew Peca sent a pass across the slot to Joel Vermin, who quickly tapped the puck into the open net.
The teams collected 33 combined penalty minutes, with most of them coming in a skirmish that saw Greger Hanson and Cameron Darcy drop the gloves. The fight alone resulted in 27 of the period’s 33 penalty minutes.
The Comets dominated the third period with an 18-3 shots advantage, but could not find the equalizer. In the game’s waning seconds Matthew Peca scored an empty-net goal to seal the deal.
The Comets finished with 29 shots on goal, while the Crunch had 18 shots. Kristers Gudlevskis made 28 saves in net for Syracuse.
The loss drops the Comets to 31-23-6-4 on the season, while Syracuse improves to 28-25-10-3.
The Comets will look to snap their losing streak Friday night, as they take on the Hershey Bears at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Tonight’s Game: The Galaxy Cup rivalry kicks back into high gear with a playoff berth on the minds of both of tonight’s combatants, the Utica Comets and the Syracuse Crunch. This season the Comets own a 4-2-0-0 series edge, and with a regulation win, will seal the deal for their third consecutive Galaxy Cup series victory. All-time between the franchises, the Comets have never lost in regulation at home (5-0-1-1) to the Crunch.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 72 points, while the Crunch have collected 65 points in 67 games. The Comets magic number to clinch a playoff spot resides at 20 points with 13 games to go.
Last Game: The Comets wrapped up their three-in-three weekend with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Binghamton Senators Sunday afternoon at The AUD. With the shootout loss, the Comets ended the weekend with an 0-1-1-1 record.
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.
Scouting the Crunch: After a February that saw the Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate win just three of their 14 games, the Crunch have seemingly righted the ship, and are in the thick of the playoff hunt after winning five of their past eight games (5-2-1-0). This past weekend, the Crunch swept the St. John’s IceCaps in a two-game series, and outscored them 9-4 in the process. All eyes will be on the 2013 third overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Jonathan Drouin (7-2-9), who recently returned to the Crunch after a much publicized team suspension. Since returning to the club on Mar. 11th, Drouin has collected six points (5-1-6) in six games. With 48 points in 60 games, Tanner Richard (10-38-48) is the team’s leader in points, and assists (38). Jeff Tambellini (24-18-42) leads the club in goals (24). Tonight’s expected starter in net is AHL All-Star goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. He enters tonight’s game with an 11-10-6 record in 32 games, a 2.99 goals against average, and a .901 save percentage.
Banck On Carter:
With four points (2-2-4) in his last four 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 63 games, Bancks is second on the active team in points, two behind Jordan Subban, and goals, 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 91.8%. The unit has killed 55 of their last 58 penalties at home (94.8%), including 37 of their last 40. Overall, the Comets penalty-kill is fifth in the league with an 85.6% conversion rate and have killed off 49 of their opponent’s last 52 power-play opportunities.
Next Game: The Comets season-high five-game home stand comes to a close Friday night when they Hershey Bears make their second, and final, trip to The AUD. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.