The Utica Comets completed their perfect 3-0-0-0 week with their second win in as many nights over the Portland Pirates at the Cross Insurance Arena on Saturday night. The 6-3 win extended the Comets season-high winning streak to four games, and their record against the Pirates to 3-0-0-0.
Travis Ehrhardt (2-0-2), Michael Zalewski (1-1-2), Alexandre Grenier (0-2-2) and Carter Bancks (0-2-2) all enjoyed multi-point nights for the Comets, while goaltender Joe Cannata made 31 saves and collected his sixth win of the season. Ashton Sautner (1-0-1), Alex Friesen (1-0-1) and Nicklas Jensen (1-0-1) also found the back of the net for the boys in blue.
Just like the game played the night before, the Comets scored the first goal of the game just a few minutes into the tilt. From the top of the face-off circle, Sautner unleashed a slap shot that screamed over the Mike McKenna’s right shoulder for the defenseman’s second goal of the season. Michael Zalewski, and Hunter Shinkaruk picked up assists on the goal.
About 10 minutes later the Comets allowed their first short-handed goal of the season when Garrett Wilson skated from his own blue line, into the Comets zone, and slipped a wrist shot from the high slot past Cannata.
The Comets collected themselves before striking twice in a span of 82 seconds. Ehrhardt would be the one that put the Comets back in the lead at the 13:32 mark of the first period. Jon Landry set-up the goal when he drew four Pirates defenders to him, which left Ehrhardt all alone at the top of the circle across the ice. Ehrhardt received the pass from his defensive partner, faked a shot to drop the final Pirates defender to his knees, stepped around him, and snapped a shot past McKenna.
After the goal, Cameron Gaunce was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when he interfered with the Comets celebration, setting up the Comets next tally.
From behind the net, Linden Vey found Jensen all alone on the doorstep with a pass that Jensen would not miss. Alexandre Grenier also picked up an assist on the play. With the power-play marker, the Comets have now scored a power-play goal in five straight games.
Early into the second period the Pirates cut the Comets lead in half. Cannata made a leg pad save on Rob Flick’s shot, but John McFarland crashed the net hard and popped the rebound into the net for his fifth goal of the season.
6:44 into the second period Ehrhardt struck again, this time short-handed. With an offensive zone face-off, Bancks cleanly won the draw back to his defenseman. Ehrhardt quickly wristed a shot into the back of the net from the top of the circle to increase the Comets lead to 4-2. The goal was Ehrhardt’s fourth of the season, and set a new season-high total for him.
The two goal lead did not last long, just 59 seconds to be exact. Sena Acolaste collected a rebound and banked a shot off of Cannata’s leg pad and in.
Five minutes into the third period the Comets, for the third time, captured a two-goal lead. The Comets caught the Pirates on a line change when John Negrin sprung Zalewski on a breakaway with a home run pass. Zalewski slipped a backhand shot underneath McKenna’s pads to extend the Comets lead to 5-3.
An empty-net goal by Alex Friesen with 1:07 left on the clock put the final touches on the victory.
With the win the Comets’ record improves to 9-8-1-1 on the season, while the win dropped the Pirates’ record to 7-10-0-0 this season. The Comets power play converted on one of their two power-play attempts, while the penalty-killing unit successfully killed all three of the Pirates power plays.
The Comets are back in action when they return home on Wednesday for a rematch with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm, and a limited amount of tickets are available for purchase.
NOTE: Prior to the game, Comets Director of Hockey Operations, Pat Conacher, announced that the team released defenseman Drew Daniels from his professional tryout contract.