Comets Set Franchise Mark in Defeat
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Mar 18, 2016
The Utica Comets set a new franchise high for consecutive home games with a point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the St. John’s IceCaps on Friday night, at The AUD. The Comets have collected a 7-0-3-1 record during their streak of 11 consecutive home games with a point that dates back to Jan. 13.
Carter Bancks (1-0-1) scored the Comets’ lone goal, while Mike Pereira (0-1-1) and Taylor Fedun (0-1-1) each recorded a point with assists. Joe Cannata made 19 saves en route to his 10th loss of the season. The Comets’ league-best home penalty-kill unit was a perfect 3-for-3 and have successfully killed off 50 of their last 52 opportunites at home (96.2%).
After the Comets could not convert on several chances to start the game, the IceCaps capitalized on a defensive lapse just 2:25 into the first period. A wide open Jeremy Gregoire one-timed Mark MacMillan’s pass from the corner off of Bachman’s chest protector and in to give the visiting team a 1-0 lead.
The game remained 1-0 in the IceCaps’ favor until Bancks tied it with 10:07 left in the third period. After taking a pass from Pereira on the half wall, Bancks stepped around a defender, and beat Fucale’s glove to knot the game at 1-1. The goal was his 10th of the season and gave the sixth year forward his first 30-point season.
In overtime, the IceCaps’ Max Friberg scored 1:19 into the extra frame to give the IceCaps a 2-1 win over Utica.
The Comet fell to 31-21-6-3 with the loss, and the IceCaps improved to 28-25-8-3 with the win.
The Comets season-high five-game home stand continues tomorrow night at The AUD when the Albany Devils make their final regular season visit at 7pm.
Tonight’s Game: The Comets kick-off their longest home stand of the season with critical Friday night tilt against the St. John’s IceCaps, and NHL All-Star Game MVP, John Scott. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm at The AUD.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 70 points, while the IceCaps are tied for fourth place with 65 points, just five points behind the Comets for the final guaranteed playoff seed. The Comets magic number to clinch a playoff spot resides at 26 points with 16 games to go.
Last Game: Chris Higgins first American Hockey League hat trick powered the Utica Comets to a 5-3 win over the Providence Bruins Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Comets regulation win snapped the Bruins 23-game point streak on home ice just two games shy of the American Hockey League’s record.
Chris Higgins (3-0-3), Taylor Fedun (0-2-2), T.J. Hensick (0-2-2), and Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) collected multi-point nights, while Kellen Jones (1-0-1) picked up the game-winning goal with his first goal with the Comets. Richard Bachman made 32 saves for his 13th win of the season. The Comets special teams were a factor in this game as the power-play converted twice on four opportunities against the third best penalty-killing team in the league. The Comets penalty-killing unit was a perfect 2-for-2 against the league’s top ranked power play unit.
Scouting the IceCaps: Fresh off of a six-game homestand, the Montreal Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate kick off a seven-game road trip tonight in Utica. Over their last six games, the IceCaps have alternated wins and losses and have collected seven points in the process. Tied for fourth in the league for points, Bud Hollway (18-34-52), leads the IceCaps in points (52), assists (34), and power-play goals (10). The team’s leading goal-scorer, Charles Hudon (20-23-43), is second in the team in power-play goals (9), and shots on goal (148). In net it has been rookie goaltender Zachary Fucale who has led the charge. In 36 games he has posted a record of 14-15-3, a goals against average of 3.04, and a save percentage of .904. The Comets have found success against Fucale with a perfect 2-0-0-0 mark against the goaltender including a game in St. John’s when they chased him with three goals on four shots in the game’s first 5:16 of play.
Cold-Blooded Killers: The Comets penalty-killing unit is the best in the league at home, with a success rate of 92%. The unit has killed 47 of their last 49 penalties at home (95.9%), including 28 of their last 29. Overall, the Comets penalty-kill is seventh in the league with an 85.5% conversion rate and have killed off 41 of their opponent’s last 43 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.
Home Cooking: The Comets, currently riding a franchise-high 10 game point streak at home, will make the final push to the playoffs playing 11 of their final 16 games at home, the most home games left for any AHL team. Since Jan. 13 vs Toronto, the Comets have collected a 7-0-2-1 record. Last year’s Western Conference championship team accomplished that feat early on in the season when they went 8-0-2-0 from Nov. 14 to Dec. 27. .
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 have another crucial divisional game lined up for tomorrow evening when the Albany Devils make their final trip to The AUD this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.
Phone Car Chargers: Free dual port car chargers for the first 550 Comets fans, courtesy of Carbone Honda in Yorkville.
T-Shirts: The first 1,000 fans with get a white Comets t-shirt courtesy of Herkimer County Community College
Pencils: The first 700 fans in the door with get a contractor pencil courtesy of Adorino Construction Pencils.
Guiness Girls: The Guiness Girls will be next to the fan zone table sampling Guiness's newest beer, Nitro IPA, from 5:30-7pm. Stop by for free Guiness giveaways.