Comets on the Cusp

The Utica Comets fired 52 shots on goal, including a franchise-high 21 in the first period, on en route to a 4-2 win over the Binghamton Senators at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday night. With the win, the Comets can clinch their second consecutive playoff berth with a Syracuse Crunch regulation loss to the Albany Devils on Friday night, or a regulation or overtime win verses the St. John’s IceCaps on Saturday night.

Brandon Marino (1-0-1), Kellen Jones (1-0-1), Alex Friesen (1-0-1), and Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) recorded the Utica goals on the night, while Richard Bachman made 21 saves in net to secure his 16th win of the season. The Comets 21 first period shots on goal tied the all-time franchise mark for shots in a period. That previous mark was hit twice before, once in the third period on Mar. 21, 2014 vs. Adirondack, a 4-3 loss, and again in the third period on Jan. 30, 2015 vs. Toronto in a 3-2 loss.

While the Comets peppered the Senators’ net with 21 shots, the Bachman only had to stave off five enemy shots in the first period. Despite the lop-sided shot totals, the game remained scoreless after the initial 20 minutes.

The team’s appeared to have saved all their goal-scoring efforts for the second period as they combined for five goals.

Marino connected for the first goal of the night midway through the second period. As the Senators were poised for a breakout, Ronalds Kenins stepped up and intercepted the breakout pass. Marino, on the opposite of Kenins, broke hard to the net. Kenins danced around a defender as Marino was cross-checked by a Senators’ defender into their goaltender Matt O’Connor. Kenins cut across the top of the crease and ricocheted a shot off of Marino and in.

2:57 later Kellen Jones extended the Comets lead to 2-0 with a Bobby Orr-esque tally. Michael Zalewski cut across the top of the circles, drew a defender to him, and slipped a pass to Jones as he darted from the near-side corner. As he was being tripped up by O’Connor, Jones managed to wrap the puck around the goaltender with both of his skates above his head.

Three minutes after the Comets grabbed a 2-0 lead, Alex Friesen made it a 3-0 lead after he picked off a Senators pass and slipped a shot between O’Connor’s legs on a breakaway.

Binghamton, more accurately Jason Akeson, struck twice on the power play in the period’s waning minutes to break-up the shutout bid and claw the visiting team to within a goal.

In the third period the Comets slammed the door shut when Alexandre Grenier put the finishing touches on a perfect pass from T.J. Hensick that was threaded through two defenders legs. Taylor Fedun recorded the secondary assist on the power-play goal with 4:48 remaining.

The Comets improved to 36-24-7-4 with the win, and the Senators fell to 27-37-6-1.

The Comets hit the road, well air, for a pair of games against the St. John’s IceCaps on “the rock”. Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 6pm start, and Sunday’s game is a 2:30pm start in the Eastern time zone.

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