The Utica Comets jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and never let up as they steamrolled the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 5-2 on Saturday night the PPL Center. The Comets outshot the home team 40-23 en route to their sixth win in their last seven games. In that stretch the Comets have collected 13 out of 14 possible points as their lone loss came in overtime.
David Shields (1-1-2), Michael Zalewski (0-2-2), Ronalds Kenins (1-1-2), and Darren Archibald (1-1-2) all posted multi-point games in the victory. The multi-point game was Kenins second consecutive night with multiple points and his first period tally was his first of the season. Cole Cassels (1-0-1) chipped in his second goal of the season, while Hunter Shinkaruk (1-0-1) added an empty-net goal as he inches closer to the franchise’s record for goals in a single-season.
The first goal on the night came from Shields as he fired a hard shot into the back of the net just about midway through the first period of play. Zalewski won an offensive zone draw to Archibald, who quickly connected with Kenins, before Kenins slid the puck over to Shields for him to put the finishing touch on.
Minutes later Kenins unleashed a wrist shot from the slot that whizzed past Stolarz’s glove to stake the Comets to a 2-0 lead just 12:44 into the game.
The Phantoms cut the Comets lead to 2-1 when Phil DeSimone slipped a shot past Bachman in the waning minutes of the first period.
From there the Comets scored the game’s next four goals to put the game on ice. The scoring started just 3:57 into the second period when Darren Archibald sniped a shot over the shoulder of Stolarz from the right face-off dot. Zalewski and Shields recorded assists on the goal.
The goal chased the Phantoms’ all-star netminder from the game, as Jason LaBarbera took over relief duties.
The new goaltender did not slow down the Comets, as Cole Cassels scored his second of the season on a one-timer from the slot. Ashton Sautner set the goal up with a perfect pass through two Phantoms’ defenders.
Down 4-1, the Phantoms took a risk and pulled LaBarbera in favor of an extra attacker with seven minutes left in the third period. All-Star forward Hunter Shinkaruk put the game away for good with his 20th of the season. The goal makes him just the third 20-goal scorer for the Comets and puts him just two shy of the franchise record set by Pascal Pelletier back during the 2013-14 season.
Danick Martel added a goal with four minutes left to set-up the final score of 5-2.
With the win the Comets improved to 24-17-4-3.
The Comets return home for a weekday game against the Portland Pirates on Wednesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game is sold out and will be the 38th consecutive sellout for the team.