The Utica Comets struck early and often, and then never looked back en route to a 5-2 win against the St. John’s IceCaps Friday night at the Mile One Centre. The Comets first ever game could not have gotten off to a better start as the team struck three times in their first four shots during the first 5:16 of play to jump out to a quick 3-0 lead.
Wacey Hamilton (2-1-3), Carter Bancks (1-2-3), John Negrin (0-2-2) each recorded multi-point nights. Fresh off of his American Hockey League All-Star Challenge appearance, Hunter Shinkaruk (1-0-1) scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season. Richard Bachman made 40 saves for his ninth win of the season.
The Comets wasted absolutely no time jumping on the IceCaps. Just 16 seconds in the hard-working line of Chris Higgins, Carter Bancks, and Wacey Hamilton, staked the Comets to a 1-0 lead. Higgins chipped a pass to the slot that Hamilton sticked up-and-over Fucale for his fifth goal of the season.
Two minutes later Joseph LaBate scored an odd one. From the boards, and along the blue line, Joseph LaBate shoveled a back-handed dump-in that hit the ice and took a screwy hop that kicked into the empty net. IceCaps’ goaltender Zach Fucale had vacated the net in an attempt to knock down the dump-in attempt, and could not recover in time to stop the tricky hop.
The Comets successfully chased St. John’s starting goaltender when Hunter Shinkaruk scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season with a nifty backhand deke just 5:16 into the game. Zalewski added an assist on the goal, his sixth point since returning to the Comets three games ago.
The IceCaps finally got on the board 15:27 into the game. IceCaps leading point-scorer Bud Holloway one-timed a shot that just barely trickled over the goal line while on a 5-on-3 power play.
With a little over three minutes remaining in the second period, the Higgins-Hamilton-Bancks line struck yet again. With extended pressure in the St. John’s zone, Chris Higgins rang a wrist shot off the post. Higgins collected his own shot and cycled the puck back to Taylor Fedun. Fedun fed a pass over to his defensive partner, John Negrin, who quickly fed the puck down to Wacey Hamilton. Hamilton connected with Bancks on a cross-crease pass that forced the goaltender out of position for Bancks to easily score his seventh of the season.
Hamilton notched his second goal of the night after he cleverly redirected a Carter Bancks pass through Pasquale late in the third period.
Jacob de la Rose of the IceCaps scored a power-play goal with less than three minutes left in the third to wrap up the game’s scoring.
The Comets penalty-killing unit killed seven of the IceCaps’ nine power-play opportunities, while the Comets failed to convert on four power-play chances. With the win the Comets record improves to 21-17-3-3.
The Comets are right back at it tomorrow night in St. John’s to wrap up their brief two game road trip in Newfoundland. Puck drop is scheduled for 6pm.