Comets Drop Heartbreaker in Home Opener

Comets Drop Heartbreaker in Home Opener

by Mark Caswell, Jr.

Oct 26, 2016

The Utica Comets opened up the home portion of their schedule with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators at the Utica Memorial Auditorium Wednesday night. It was the second consecutive loss for the Comets, moving their record to 1-4-0-0 on the season.

Carter Bancks (1-0-1), Alexandre Grenier (0-1-1), and Michael Chaput (0-1-1) paced the Comets with one point apiece. Chaput extended his point streak to five games with an assist in the first period. Goaltender Richard Bachman suffered the loss and stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced.

The Comets came out hot, as Michael Zalewski almost struck twice in the first five minutes. With the exception of a Jordan Subban hooking penalty, the home team controlled play all throughout the opening frame. The hard work paid off when Binghamton’s Vincent Dunn was sent to the penalty box,for tripping, with about two minutes remaining in the period. On the ensuing power play, Bancks found the back of the net off a tipped shot from Grenier to give the Comets a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission.

The tables turned to start the middle stanza as the Senators controlled play for the first half of the second period. With Zalewski in the box for hooking, Francis Perron made the Comets pay with his second goal of the year just four minutes into the period. Chris Carlisle and Chad Nehring picked up the assists on the power play goal. The teams battled evenly through the final 9:22 to preserve the 1-1 tie heading into the final period.

The game was decided late in the third period when Ashton Sautner was forced to take down Curtis Lazar on a breakaway, which gave the Senators a late power play. With 1:58 to go, Lazar buried the eventual game-winner off a perfect feed through traffic from Phil Varone and Michael Kostka.

The Comets power play stayed hot, going 1-for-3, while the penalty kill once again suffered and allowed two goals in five attempts.

The Comets return to action Friday night against the Providence Bruins. Puck drop from The AUD is scheduled for 7pm. All fans in attendance will receive a magnetic schedule, courtesy of Celtic Harp.

Utica Memorial Auditorium, 7 p.m.
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Tonight’s Game: Welcome back to the Utica Memorial Auditorium! Tonight, the Utica Comets welcome the Binghamton Senators to kick off the club’s fourth season of American Hockey League action.

Last Game: Despite climbing out of a 2-0 hole, the Utica Comets lost by the score of 3-2 to the Albany Devils at the Times Union Center on Saturday night. The Comets record fell to 1-3-0-0, while the Devils improved to a perfect 4-0-0-0.

Defenseman Off-season free agent signings Michael Chaput (1-0-1) and Derek Hulak (1-0-1) each netted their first goals as a member of the Comets, while David Shields (0-1-1), Marco Roy (0-1-1), Michael Zalewski (0-1-1), and Carter Bancks (0-1-1) all recorded an assist. Goaltender Thatcher Demko, in his second professional start, made 24 saves in the loss.

Head-to-Head: The Comets are 11-3-2-2 all-time against the Senators, and have averaged 3.83 goals per game against their in-state rival.

Scouting the Senators: With the hiring of head coach Kurt Kleinendorst, what’s old is new again in New York’s Southern tier. In his previous stint as head coach of the B-Sens, Kleinendorst led his troops to Binghamton’s only Calder Cup championship during the 2010-11 season. The Senators’ roster, despite the change behind the bench, remains relatively intact from last year’s team that allowed the fifth most goals scored (241) in the league. Notable off-season subtractions include 52-point scorer Jason Akeson (13-39-52) who left for the KHL, David Dziurynski who signed in the DEL league after he appeared in 14 games for the Ottawa Senators, and defenseman Mark Fraser who signed with Edmonton. In their place, the B-Sens beefed up their forwards with the addition of two 20-goal scorers in Mike Blunden (21-17-38), and Chad Nehring (22-26-48). The tandem of Chris Driedger (1-0-0-1) and Matt O’Connor (0-1-0-0) once again make up the goaltending duo for the Senators.

Six Pack: Newcomer Michael Chaput has recorded six points (1-5-6) in four games thus far. His five assists thus far is tied for the third most in the AHL. Chaput, a third round draft pick of the Flyers in the 2010 NHL Draft, won a Calder Cup championship last season with the Lake Erie Monsters. He finished second on the Monsters last season with 45 points.

Power Play Surge: Converting at a 25% rate (5 for 20), the Comets power play has been red hot to start the season. Buoyed by a perfect 2-for-2 night against Syracuse on Friday, the power play unit has been a welcomed addition to a team that struggled with the man advantage last year when it finished ranked 23rd in the league.

See You Soon: On Monday, Comets forward Joseph Labate received a three-game suspension from the AHL as a consequence of a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of an opponent, assessed in a game at Albany on Oct. 22.

The Streak: The Comets have sold out 55 straight home dates, including all 15 Calder Cup playoff games played at The AUD, as well as every regular season game played during the 2015-16 season. The sellout streak dates back to April 10, 2015. The first two home games on Wednesday, Oct. 26 vs. the Binghamton Senators and Friday, Oct. 28 vs. the Providence Bruins sold out last week. A limited number of tickets remain available for purchase at for the Comets next home games of the season on Friday, Nov. 11 vs. the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Military Night), and on Saturday, Nov. 12 vs. the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Your Safety Matters: Earlier this month the Utica Memorial Auditorium announced that hand-held metal detector wands will be used at all main entrances to the arena. Fans are strongly encouraged to arrive 15-20 minutes earlier than they usually would, and even earlier if they typically arrive close to puck drop. These new security measures are consistent with those in effect at other sporting venues, including the NBA, MLB and NFL.

Next Game: The Comets finish off the two-game homestand on Friday night when they welcome the Providence Bruins to The AUD. All fans in attendance will receive a 2016-17 Comets magnet schedule, courtesy of Celtic Harp.

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