Comets Drop Regular Season Finale
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 17, 2016
In the last regular season game of the season, the Utica Comets fell to the Binghamton Senators 4-2 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium Sunday afternoon.
Brandon Marino (1-0-1) and Brendan Gaunce (1-0-1) scored the Utica goals and Ronalds Kenins (0-1-1) and Carter Bancks (0-1-1) each finished with an assist. Joe Cannata made 25 saves in the loss.
Utica dominated out of the gates and kept the puck in the Senators zone for most of the first period. The Comets finished with an 18-5 shot advantage.
Marino got the Comets on the board first after a perfect setup by Kenins. Bancks zipped a pass up ice to Kenins, and he carried the puck down the left side of the ice. Kenins sent a perfect pass across to Marino as he streaked down the right side of the ice and found the back of the net with a one timer.
Ryan Rupert got the Senators first goal of the game to tie it at one. Rupert received a pass from Buddy Robinson and was able to put a shot past Cannata, 4:53 into the second.
Gaunce got Utica back on top, as he turned defense into instant offense, 1:33 after the Binghamton goal. Gaunce stole the puck away from a Binghamton defender in the Senators zone and sent a shot on goal as he was falling to his knees. Gaunces 17th goal of the season snuck past the glove side of the netminder for a 2-1 Comets lead.
The Senators didn't go away easy, though. Binghamton was able to tie the game again when Casey Bailey put a pass in front of the net and Matt Puempel picked it up and was able to squeeze it past Cannata.
Bailey gave the Senators their first lead of the game late in the third. Cannata knocked down a shot from Puempel, but Bailey was waiting for the rebound and put it in for a 3-2 Senators lead.
The Senators closed it out with an empty net goal off the stick of Max McCormick to give Binghamton a 4-2 win.
Utica was able to get 40 shots on goal, while Binghamton finished with 29 shots. Joe Cannata made 25 saves for the Comets and Chris Driedger made 38 saves in net for the Senators.
Utica falls to 38-26-8-4 on the year and Binghamton improves to 31-38-6-1.
The Comets will now head to the playoffs where they will look to make another run to the Calder Cup Finals.
Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets 2015-16 regular season schedule concludes this afternoon with a matinee match-up against the Binghamton Senators. The Comets enter tonight’s game with a season series record of 5-1-0-1 against their intrastate rival. All-time, the Comets possess an 11-2-2-2 record.
With 88 points, the Comets can hit the 90-point plateau for the second consecutive season with a win. Currently in third place in the North Division, Utica is currently engaged in a playoff positioning battle with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Portland Pirates due to the American Hockey League’s new playoff format. The Comets do not hold tiebreakers over either team, but more on that later.
Last Game: The Utica Comets weathered losing three different leads through the course of the game, and needed just 33 seconds of extra time to take the coveted Galaxy Cup Trophy home with a 4-3 win over the Syracuse Crunch. With a series record of 6-4-0-0, the Comets claimed their third consecutive Galaxy Cup title with a 12-9 edge in points.
Michael Zalewski (2-1-3), and Brendan Gaunce (1-2-3) enjoyed three-point nights while Taylor Fedun (0-2-2) chipped in a multi-point game with two assists. Richard Bachman made 32 saves for his 101st career American Hockey League victory. Friesen's short-handed marker in the second period was the Comets 17th short-handed goal of the season, the most scored by any team in the AHL.
Scouting the Senators: With impressive wins over the Albany Devils and the Hershey Bears, the Senators head in to Utica as winners of three of their four games played since their last trip to the Mohawk Valley. Casey Bailey, acquired in a deal with the Toronto Marlies, will be playing in his 12th game against the Comets this season. He leads all B-Sens players with seven points (1-6-7) against Utica. Phil Varone (19-35-54) and Jason Akeson (13-39-52), immediately became the top two point-scorers for the last place club when they were acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. With six points in his las four games (1-5-6), Varone has caught fire as of late. Although goaltender Chris Driedger has played in more games (38), the Comets have seen Matt O’Connor in six of the team’s seven games this season. In those games, O’Connor is 1-5-0-0, with a 4.21 goals against average and an .888 save percentage.
Iron Man: Comets forward Carter Bancks enters tonight’s game as just one 11 players that can finish the season playing all 76 games for one team this season, and the only player from the North Division. Across the board Bancks has set career highs in games played (75), goals (14), assists (24), and points (38). Six players from the Pacific Division have a chance of playing in all 66 games for their team.
Super Joe: Joseph LaBate produced nine points (5-5-10) over a 15 game stretch from March 12 to April 15, following just 10 points (5-5-10) in his first 48 games of the season. The rookie forward has found a niche as being the man creating havoc at the top of the crease on the power play. Over the past month he has been the direct cause of several Comets goals without being credited with a point on the play.
Milestones in Sight: Expected starter in net, Joe Cannata, is 31 saves from 1,000 on the season. Alexandre Grenier is a point away from matching his career high for goals in a season (17), and three points away from a 50-point season (16-31-47). Carter Bancks is two points away from a 40-point season. Brendan Gaunce (16-21-37) is three points shy of a 40-point season.
Here’s the Deal: The Comets will know their playoff dance partner by the end of the night. If the Comets win, they will guarantee themselves a date with the Albany Devils, regardless of any other outcome.
If Comets lose in overtime or a shootout:
-A Bridgeport loss OR Portland regulation loss = Comets vs. Albany
-A Bridgeport win and Portland win = Comets vs. Toronto
If Comets lose in regulation:
-A Bridgepoint W/OTL/SOL = Comets vs. Toronto
-A Bridgeport regulation loss = Comets vs. Albany
Next Game: Great question! We’ll find out by the end of the night.