Colin Stuart was pretty sure it was a first.
“I think that was my first AHL hat trick,” he said.
He was right. The Comet captain scored three times for the first time in 493 American Hockey League games to lead the Utica Comets to a 5-2 victory over the Binghamton Senators before a hooting and howling crowd of 3,286 at Friday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The win broke a three-game losing streak on a night the Comets honored eight members of the Clinton Comets, the Eastern Hockey League power of the 1950s and 1960s.
And the game was the first of three in as many days for the Comets, who won for just the second time on home ice (2-8-1-1) and are 7-14-1-1 overall.
Now, the Comets get right back to work, visiting the Penguins, – now leading the East Division with 33 ponts – in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and then coming back home to play Lake Erie Sunday.
“Three in three is taxing,” Stuart said, who added an assist for a four-point night. “But it’s one step at a time. We can’t take any nights off.”
Obviously it was a big night for Stuart, who has had seven two-goals games in his AHL career, the last for Rochester against Binghamton in 2012, and now has eight goals and 11 points. It also was for goalie Joacim Eriksson, who had two stop a couple of breakaways and point-blank shots and made 42 saves, 18 in the first period.
“Yoke was pretty good,” Coach Travis Green said. “He kept us in it in the first period.”
Cal O’Reilly and Darren Archibald scored the other goals, both also added assists, and Pascal Pelletier and Benn Ferriero had two assists apiece for the Comets.
“The team as a whole played well,” Stuart said.
The Senators now are 14-8-0-3 and two points out of first in the East, but are 0-3-0-3 in their last six games. They got a first period goal from Derek Grant and took the lead briefly on Mark Borowiecki’s score early in the second, but the Comets recovered with the kind of all-out effort coach Green says is essential for them to succeed.
But Stuart, the team captain, was the headliner. His first goal came on the power play at 7:48 of the first period, when he knocked in a rebound of a Pelletier shot that Archibald also got a piece of. His second gave the Comets a 4-2 pad early in the third period and came on a dart from the left circle after he took a sharp lead pass from David Marshall. The third put the game away at 17:54, with O’Reilly getting him the puck on the doorstep after Ferriero outhustled a pair of Senators to control it deep in the Binghamton zone.
The Utica Comets paid tribute to their professional forbears before their 5-2 American Hockey League victory over the Binghamton Senators at the Utica Memorial Auditorium Friday.
Clinton Comets Archie Burton, Jack Kane, Dave Armstrong, Bordy Smith, Tim Hook, Tom Mitchell, Pete Prevost and the late Ian Anderson were honored prior to the game and celebrated warmly by the crowd.
Their jersey numbers and likenesses will hang permanently in the Aud in recognition of their efforts on behalf of the Clinton team, the Mohawk Valley’s original professional hockey team and five-time Eastern Hockey League champions.