Comets, LaBate Route Binghamton
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 2, 2016
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.
The first period could not have been better scripted for the Comets. A three goal first period was kicked off 10:26 into the game when Joseph LaBate redirected T.J. Hensick's shot from the top of the circle up and over O'Connor for his seventh goal of the season. It was a bit of a quirky goal as no player could find the puck that was suspended in the air for several seconds before it crashed back down to the crease, and kicked into the net for the power-play goal.
LaBate struck again seven minutes later when his slapshot from the top of the left circle was wired past O'Connor's blocker for his second of the night.
The Comets concluded the 17-shot first period barrage with a second power-play goal on their second opportunity of the night. With LaBate wreaking Havoc at the top of the crease, Taylor Fedun blasted a slapshot through traffic and past O'Connor's leg pad for his seventh of the season.
The Comets rode the early momentum into the second period and scored just 43 seconds into the period. Carter Bancks improved on his career year with a wrist over the blocker of O'Connor for his 13th goal of the season.
The Senators were finally able to get on the board late in the second period thanks to Mark Fraser's second goal of the year.
With the win, the Comets record improves to 35-23-7-4.
The Comets put the finishing touches on their three-in-three weekend with a critical home game against the Syracuse Crunch. The Comets can seal the deal and win their third consecutive Galaxy Cup with a regulation win. Puck drop is scheduled for 3pm at The AUD.
Tonight’s Game: After eliminating the Binghamton Senators from playoff contention last night, the Utica Comets make the trip down 12 South to take on their intrastate rival in their home arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15pm.
The Comets are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference’s North Division with 79 points, while the Senators are in last place in the division with 61 points. The Comets magic number to clinch a playoff spot resides at nine points with 8 games to go.
Last Game: The Utica Comets returned to the Utica Memorial Auditorium for their second home game of the week as they took on the Springfield Falcons in their continued push for a playoff spot. A four goal third period lifted the Comets to a 5-2 victory over the Falcons for their second consecutive come from behind victory.
T.J. Hensick (1-0-1), Alexandre Grenier (1-2-3), Alex Friesen (1-0-1), David Shields (1-0-1), Brandon Marino (1-0-1) picked up goals for the Comets, while defenseman Jon Landry (0-2-2) recorded a multi-point night. Joe Cannata stopped 18 of the Falcons’ 20 shots on goal for the victory.
Scouting the Senators: Don’t let their position in the standings fool you, the new-look Binghamton Senators are sporting a winning record (6-4-3-0) since the Trade Deadline that saw the Senators exchange seven players with the Rochester Americans. Two of the players acquired, Phil Varone (18-30-48) and Jason Akeson (11-35-46), immediately became the top two point-scorers for the last place club. Varone has collected 16 points (5-11-16) in 14 games since swapping New York State team sweaters. Although goaltender Chris Driedger has played in more games (35), the Comets have seen Matt O’Connor in four of the team’s five games this season. In those games, O’Connor is 1-3-0-0, with a 4.30 goals against average and an .874 save percentage.
Road Monsters: With 18 road wins, the Comets are tied for fourth in the league in road wins, and have scored the third most goals on enemy ice. The 110 goals scored in opponent’s arenas are behind only Toronto Marlies (135), and the Texas Stars (124).
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 85.9% conversion rate and have killed off 67 of their opponent’s last 72 power-play opportunities.
Next Game: The Comets put the finishing touches on their three-in-three weekend with a critical home game against the Syracuse Crunch. The Comets can seal the deal and win their third consecutive Galaxy Cup with a regulation win. Puck drop is scheduled for 3pm at The AUD.