Tag Archives: American Hockey League

Utica Comets 1 vs. Manchester Monarchs 2 (Series: 4-1 MCH)

t wasn’t the ending the loyal hockey fans of the Mohawk Valley wanted, but the Utica Comets were celebrated and bid a due by the loudest fans in the American Hockey League after ending just their second season in the Calder Cup Finals on Saturday night at The Utica Memorial Auditorium.

The series ended in five games as the Manchester Monarchs defeated the Comets 2-1 in Game 5 and claimed their right to hoist the most prized possession in the AHL, the Calder Cup.

Captain Cal O’Reilly (1-0-1) scored the Comets lone goal of the night in the remaining seconds of the third period and finished the postseason for a team high of 19 points. Monarchs’ goaltender Patrik Bartosak gave the Monarchs some breathing room as he stopped 30 of 31 shots en route to the team’s championship win.

The Comets gave up an early goal in the first period when rookie Adrian Kempe found his fourth goal in just three games after a sneaky drop pass from Nic Dowd left the puck right underneath Markstrom’s nose outside of the blue paint. Without hesitation, Kempe spiked the puck in on the short side to make it a 1-0 game at 10:02,

A hooking penalty called on Will Acton left the Comets vulnerable a little over three minutes later as the Monarchs took fully advantage of the situation and scored their fifth power-play goal of the series for the two goal lead. Vincent LoVerde was credited with the goal for his second of the postseason.

It was just a little too late as Bobby Sanguinetti dished one up to O’Reilly with just 15 seconds left in the third period. O’Reilly’s shot from the left circle launched past Bartosak’s right side to set the score at 2-1. Cory Conacher received his third and final assist postseason on the play.

After going 47-20-7-2 during their 76 game 2014-2015 regular season, and making it to the Calder Cup Finals with a final record of 12-11 in the postseason, the Utica Comets humbly ended their season in front of the most supportive fans in the AHL.

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Utica Comets 3 vs Manchester Monarchs 6 (Series 3-1 MCH)

The Utica Comets are just one game away from being eliminated from the Calder Cup Finals after Friday night’s 6-3 loss in Game 4 to the Manchester Monarchs at The Utica Memorial Auditorium. Despite having their home crowd behind them, the Comets found themselves in a three-goal deficit before the third period even began and now trail the series 3-1.

Sven Baertschi (1-0-1), Frank Corrado (1-0-1) and Will Acton (1-0-1) were the three to score for the Comets. Joacim Eriksson made his second appearance this postseason after he relieved Jacob Markstrom who made 27 saves before being pulled in the third period.

Manchester opened up the scoring for the third time in the series at 12:45 into the first period after Sean Backman retrieved a turnover and waited for the shot as he brought around the Markstrom’s left side. After Markstrom went down on his stomach to make the glove save, Backman released the shot and put over the glove for the 1-0 lead.

Just 32 seconds later Manchester forced another turnover just above the high slot as Alexandre Grenier fought to keep the puck in the Comets possession. The Monarchs forecheck paid off as Nic Dowd snapped off a quick shot into the mesh for the two-goal lead.

A quick reply was in order for the Comets as Corrado nailed the Comets first goal of the night in from the left point right past Patrik Bartosak’s stick-side to make it a 2-1 game at 14:09. Brandon DeFazio and Hunter Shinkaruk both got credit for the goal.

A handful of penalties at the end of the first period gave the Comets their chance on the power play and Baertschi netted the 2-2 equalizer after a solid pass across the slot from Cory Conacher. Bobby Sanguinetti recorded the secondary assist.

A handful of penalties at the end of the first period gave the Comets their chance on the power play and Baertschi netted the 2-2 equalizer after a solid pass across the slot from Cory Conacher. Bobby Sanguinetti recorded the secondary assist.

The third period saw two more goals including Monarch’s Adrian Kempe’s blast from the left circle at 6:27 and the Comets third and final goal of the night after Will Acton popped the puck in from a slick feed from Peter Andersson.

The Comets took recorded a total of 43 penalty minutes and gave the Monarchs six power-play chances, two of which the Monarchs capitalized on.

The AUD will see it’s last game of the hockey season tomorrow night with Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals beginning at 7 p.m.

Utica Comets 3 Over Manchester Monarchs 2 (Series 2-1 MCH)

Playing on home ice for the first time in the Calder Cup Finals made all the difference for the Utica Comets Wednesday night as they took Game 3 of the best-of-seven series and beat the Manchester Monarchs 3-2 in front of a rowdy sold out crowd at The Utica Memorial Auditorium. With the win, Utica now trails the series 2-1 and have guaranteed their fans a Game 5 this Saturday.

It was a multi-point night for the Comets captain and point leader Cal O’Reilly (1-1-2) (pictured above) after he scored his first goal of the postseason and recorded his 17th assist. Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) had an identical night to O’Reilly’s with a goal and an assist to keep the Comets one step ahead of the Monarchs. Things haven’t cooled down for Nicklas Jensen (1-0-1) as he buried his second in just as many games for his fourth of the postseason. Jacob Markstrom had another great bounce-back performance with a total of 32 saves on 34 shots.

Getting on the board first had favored the Monarchs up to this point in the series so the Comets took the initiative and made it 1-0 game at 5:45 into the first period. Adam Clendening and Mike Zalewski made the play possible for O’Reilly who received the puck just above the high slot. With a swift skate to the left circle, O’Reilly released a shot and beat Jean-Francois Berube glove-side for the game’s opening goal.

Shortly after the Comets first goal, Berube was injured on a play and was replaced in net by back-up goaltender Patrik Bartosak at 7:51.

The AUD was rocking once again just before the last minute winded down in the first period. This time Grenier got the tally as he raced down the right wing and put a snapshot on net to beat Bartosak glove side to make it a 2-0 game.

Manchester quickly answered just 37 seconds later after Derek Forbort took a shot from inside the slot. Markstrom stopped the initial shot, but Adrian Kempe positioned himself to the right of the post as he picked up the rebound and slotted it over the glove hand to get the Monarchs within one.

Utica took their two-goal lead right back just 6:18 in to the second period after a shot from the left side of the ice bounced off of a defender in front of Bartosak and slipped through to make it 3-1. Both Grenier and Peter Andersson tallied the helpers on the play.

There was another quick reply from the Monarchs as Kempe slipped one past Markstrom for his second goal of the night just 1:02 after the Comets third goal. Sean Backman and Nick Shore set up the 2-on-1 for Kempe as the Monarchs made it the third one-goal game of the series.

The Monarchs and the Comets will meet again this Friday at The AUD for Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at 7 p.m. as they hope to even the series 2-2.

 

Oklahoma City Barons beat Utica Comets in fourth OT

The Oklahoma City Barons beat the Utica Comets shortly into the fourth overtime period in the opening game of their American Hockey League Calder Cup playoff game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

(Utica Comets photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)
Jacob Marstrom

The Oklahoma City Barons beat the Utica Comets shortly into the fourth overtime period in the opening game of their American Hockey League Calder Cup playoff game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

The teams were tied 1-1 going into the fourth OT of the Western Conference semifinal, with the Comets’ Jacob Markstrom and the Barons’ Richard Bachman waging a classic goalie duel.

Markstrom made 47 saves through 80 minutes, Bachman made 40, and both were more than spectacular on numerous occasions.

It was the fourth time in six playoff games the Comets had gone to overtime – they had three such games in their first-round victory over the Chicago Wolves – and the third time in four games for the Barons.

Kent Huskins, the Comets’ elder statesman, a defensive defenseman and 14-year pro who celebrated his 36th birthday Monday, got the Comets going when he snuck in from the left point – something he rarely does – and took a perfect pass from Darren Archibald to beat Richard Bachman at 17:10 of the first period. Brandon DeFazio started the play by winning the puck off the back wall and sliding it across to Archibald in the left corner.

Markstrom had to be very solid at the other end, turning aside 14 shots as the Barons controlled much of the action and had the majority of good chances.

The Barons pulled even in early in the second period. They turned the Comets over the neutral zone, Kellen Jones picked the puck up along the right boards and got in alone to beat Markstrom at 4:13.

Oklahoma City again had the territorial advantage, and a slight 14-13 edge in shots, but the Comets did test Bachman severely, with Carter Bancks, Brendan Gaunce and Cory Conacher being turned down on great chances. Markstrom was busy, too, and had particular good stops on C.J. Stretch dead in front and on David Musil bearing down the slot.

Markstrom and Bachman intensified their duel through the third period, with Markstrom making 12 saves, Bachman 10 and both having to be all but magical a handful of times. Bachman’s best might have been on an open Alex Friesen backhander just 2 minutes in, although he later had to stop Baertschi down deep and then Adam Clendening and Huskins on great chances. Markstrom had a bunch, too, taking one of his mask to stop a Brad Hunt blast, somehow getting a stick on a Mitch Moroz rebound, and dealing with a great chance by C.J. Stretch.

Both team had great chances in overtime – the Comets had an 11-8 edge in shots – and both goalies came up big several times again. Markstrom was stellar in stopping Kellen Jones’ wide-open backhander with seven minutes to play.

The wight-clad sellout crowd was fairly sedate for much of the game, but got into it in a big way in the extra period, especially when DeFazio more than energetically led the way in killing a penalty called on Adam Clendening at 6:13.

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American Hockey League All-Stars In Utica Aud

The Comets’ trio of All-Stars earned plenty of points Sunday night, but not quite enough, as the Eastern Conference topped the Western Conference 15-11 at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The All-Star Classic weekend kicks off it’s on ice portion tonight with the All-Star Skills Competition. Players will be in their normal team’s uniforms, as the East and West will square off and show off their skills. Check out the rules and events.

 

UticaCometsAllStarStartersall three Utica Comets All-Stars will be in the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic starting line-up. The starting line-up is determined by the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic Fan Balloting presented by CCM, as league fans voted to determine the starting lineups for Monday night’s 2015 AHL All-Star Game:. Read more about the line ups.

(Utica Comets photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)

Comets All Star – Jacob Markstrom

UticaCometsBobbySanguinetti

Comets All-Star – Bobby Sanguinetti

 

Utica Comets Have Just Re-signed Defenseman Kent Huskins

The Utica Comets have just re-signed defenseman Kent Huskins to an American Hockey League contract for the 2014-15 season.

The 35-year-old Huskins joined the Comets in November 2013 on a professional tryout contract and spent the remainder of the season in Utica.

Huskins appeared in 65 Comets games and recorded three goals and seven assists with 31 penalty minutes. He’s played in 475 AHL games in a 13-year career and recorded 134 points on 33 goals, 101 assists with 295 penalty minutes.

Huskins, who played collegiate hockey at Clarkson, was drafted in the sixth round of the 1998 National Hockey League Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks.

He was a member of the 2006-7 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks and he’s also played in the NHL with San Jose, St. Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia. Huskins has 66 points on 13 goals and 55 assists in 315 NHL games.

WOW, What a great career! Comets will benefit from all that experience.

Utica Comets First Season Ends – Who Knew Success Was Coming (So Fast)?

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Below is a great blog from Don Liable  that appeared in the Utica Observer Dispatch  on April 20th 2014
I’m sure that I’m not alone in thinking, where did the Utica Comets’ inaugural season go?
My gosh, I could remember last June vividly, as the press conference was presented at Aquavino’s making the announcement official.  Who knew that The AUD would/could be transformed from a building hopelessly stuck in the 1970’s to a modern day, AHL ready facility in about 90 days?  As excited as any hockey fan in the area, honestly, my expectations weren’t all that high on what would be coming.  How could it?  A professional hockey team, just a step away from the National Hockey League coming to 400 Oriskany Street,West?  Okay, what’s the catch?

Who knew that the day after the official announcement of the Vancouver Canucks putting their AHL franchise in Utica, a line of would-be season ticket holders would show up in the early hours to select their seats?  This was the precursor to what snowballed, no, make that avalanched , with the incredible acceptance of the club.  Then, the day single game tickets were put on sale, a Saturday morning, hundreds were camped out wanting seats for the specific opponents (Syracuse and Albany were at the top of many’s list) of choice.  Yet another sign that pro hockey was going to be a community-wide success.

Who knew that those deeply devoted to other programs in the area would finally come around and see for themselves that there most certainly is room for another hockey option?  To those who doubted that locals would pay professional prices, something that they hadn’t been used to for more than two decades, for a professional product became believers. If the Comets leadership would have gone on the record and predicted more than 100,000 supporters would come through The AUD turnstiles for 38 home games in year one – they would have been laughed at.  To those who may still want to find a way to be wondering if they (Comets) are going to stay (and there are such doubters) – the record shows 130,518 area hockey fans came to support their team.

Who knew there would ever be video boards inside The AUD, modernized concession areas, and a merchandise store that had as much difficulty keeping items stocked as a big box store prior to some type of weather alert?  Who knew that a staff of barely out of college students, with a few exceptions, would learn, grow, and exceed their own expectations?  The organizing of who is doing what, and how do we get there,(and I hope they are all reflecting on their growth) is flat-out amazing.  These kids probably don’t realize it (yet) but they are veterans already.  Who knew that already, the unofficial slogan for season two of the Comets is – “Is It October Yet” – ?

Who knew that as the horn went off for the last time for the season on Saturday, Utica’s record since January 17 is 24-12-3-2?  Absolutely amazing, and what a testament to the coaching done by Travis Green and his assistants Nolan Baumgartner and Paul Jerrard.

Who knew that THE Utica rivalry with the Syracuse Crunch would bloom as rapid, and as fierce, as it has?  The Comets fans, following to road games in Syracuse, Albany, and Adirondack, particularly, were as loud, and mostly louder than the home team fan base – who out numbered them by the thousands.  One thing I, and everyone, yes, everyone, could predict – Observer-Dispatch reporter John Pitarresi would be the damn best of the best in Utica media to chronicalize the club’s performances.  From a personal note, I learned so much on what to say, how to say it, and to who to say it to, in being around John at post-game press conferences.  What a pro.

Who knew Comets radio broadcasts would be a must when the boys were on the road?  Well, as in the case of John covering the team, Brendan Burke exceeded all predictions of his NHL readiness.  Who knew that Adam Banko would create a team ticket operations department so professional, and sensative to area fans, that his “getting to yes” approach to many distressed fans would find a way into The AUD, and have a seat waiting? Mark Caswell, bar none, champion of people skills and communicating with every and all who had to be kept in the loop on everything Comets, has grown into a full-fledged sports executive.

The team, the organization, and The AUD are in good hands, this day after season one is in the AHL books.  Who knew – I’ll tell you, as if you need a reminder – Robert Esche and Frank DuRoss.  They knew it all the time.  They were the sales staff before there ever was anything to sell – and did it.    They did it.
 

UTICA COMETS: The Surprise Kids

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The season did not start out well. The Utica Comets were winless in their first 10 games in their inaugural season in the American Hockey League, and they struggled mightily through the first couple of months.

I wouldn’t say worried,” said coach Travis Green, who was making his professional debut behind the bench. “I had high expectations of starting the year off right. There were some trying times for our coaching staff. There definitely was a time we wondered if we were doing the right things.”

The 0-8-1-1 start put the Comets in an enormous hole. That, plus a six-game winless streak in early January and an epic collapse against the Syracuse Crunch on April 5 that cost them two crucial points in the standings didn’t help at all.

But despite a dearth of goal-scoring – 2.46 goals per game, 26th in the 30-team league – the Comets eventually figured it out. After an 8-3 home loss to the Albany Devils on Jan. 17, they went 24-12-3-1 to finish 35-32-5-4, two points out of the Calder Cup playoffs.

The desperate run over the last three months, and a season-long penchant for playing dramatic, one-goal games (24-22 in 46 of them) provided a lot of drama, and seemed to win over the majority of fans, thousands of whom saluted the team wildly after Saturday’s finale, a 2-0 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

 

Guys had a better understanding of how Travis wanted us to play, and when Cal (O’Reilly) came in,” he said. “(O’Reilly) provided a lot of things, and not just points – leadership and skills, on and off the ice.”

Green felt the team played better than its record early.

We had young guys in goal, we had young guys on defense,” he said. “Our team had never played together. It seems simple, but it isn’t. Even how your voice sounds matters. … When we added Husky (Kent Huskins) and O’Reilly, it made a difference. Both goalies (Joacim Eriksson and Joe Cannata) began developing after 15 or 20 games. That might be the biggest thing.”

Green plans to pound home the lessons learned this season next season.

Pat Conacher, the Stanley Cup winner and former Utica Devils captain who is the team’s director of operations, said he doesn’t know if all or any of the players who fall under the AHL’s veteran rule – Pelletier, O’Reilly, Huskins, Colin Stuart, Benn Ferriero, Alex Biega – will be back, or short-term vets like Brandon DeFazio, the only Comet to play every game this season, who had his best year in three AHL seasons at 17-17 -34 and plus-6.

He does know he is looking for better results as the Comets try to win and develop talent for the parent Vancouver Canucks.

It is not satisfactory,” he said. “The goal is to not only make the playoffs, but to win championships, every year. … They all want to be in the NHL. They have to do their work down here. Every game is important, first to last. If they play 12 minutes or 15 minutes, they have to make themselves the very best they can be in those minutes. The kids have to learn that down here.”

Read more about the surprise kids

 

Utica Comets Win Important, Even With No Playoffs

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Yes, the Comets were out of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoff picture.

Still, this was an important game.

“People are always watching,” said Comets goalie Joe Cannata.

Friday, a sellout crowd of 3,815 – including long ago Utica Devils heroes Tommy McVie and Eric Weinrich – at the Utica Memorial Auditorium watched the Comets come from behind to edge the Toronto Marlies 3-2, a victory that ensured them of a winning season and deprived the Marlies of a chance to move up from third in the Western Conference playoff seedings.

Spectacular goaltending by Cannata – he stopped 37 shots, many of them eye-popping and some of them that might best be described as miraculous – and a pair of third-period goals by veterans Pascal Pelletier and Cal O’Reilly did the job for the Comets.

Yann Sauve scored the other goal, and Alex Mallet, David Marshall, Nicklas Jensen, Alex Friesen and Alex Biega – who took a slap shot to the face in the third period and had to be assisted from the ice and eventually taken to the hospital – had assists for the Comets, who will take a 34-32-5-4 record into the season finale against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday at the Aud.

The winning record discounts five overtime and four shootout losses, but the Comets have 77 points, more than half the 152 available over the 76-game schedule.

“We know the season was ended (in terms of playoff possibilities), but nobody likes to lose,” said Cannata, who has been outstanding the second half of the season and is 8-2 in his last 10 starts, allowing just 24 goals. “They (the Marlies) had something to play for. We tried to play spoiler.”

And succeeded.

Comets coach Travis Green said the game was important for many reasons – the chance to finish over .500, to be a spoiler, to play for the fans and for each other – and the result, especially being down entering the third period, was gratifying for him.

“It says a lot about our group,” he said. “They’re resilient, determined. There is no quit in them.” Read more about the Utica Comets

Utica Comets to miss Playoffs

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Pascal Pelletier has missed the playoffs only twice in his 10 professional hockey seasons.This is one of them.“It’s not a good feeling,” the Utica Comets veteran said after he and his teammates eliminated from Calder Cup contention in a 4-1 American Hockey League loss to the Rochester Americans Wednesday before 3,316 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Colton Gillies scored twice in the second period for the Amerks, who nailed down a playoff berth of their own with the win. Kevin Porter and Phil Varone scored the other goals and Andrey Makarov made 31 saves.

David Marshall scored the only Comets goal, with assists from Ray Kaunisto and Yann Sauve, and Joacim Eriksson made 18 stops.

The loss ended a desperate stretch of must-win games for the Comets, who have had a winning record – 33-24-4-3 – since going 0-8-1-1 in the first five weeks of the season.

“It’s been pretty hard,” said Pelletier, the team’s leading scorer (20-40 – 60). “But when you’re in it, you don’t really think about it. We’ve been trying to battle back from that horrible start.”

The Comets went last night’s game needing to defeat the Amerks and then win at home against Toronto Friday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday, with the hope that everyone else in contention would fall apart. Oklahoma City could have come close to securing a spot Wednesday, but lost 2-1 to Texas. They and Charlotte and Rockford all have two weekend games apiece to settle the eighth and final playoff spot.

That leaves the Comets with two so-called “meaningless games” to play.

“Everybody needs to be a pro about it,” Pelletier said. “People pay money, so play like you mean it.”

Which is what Comets Coach Travis Green expects.

“Part of being a pro is playing the right way,” he said. “This group has come a long way since the start of the season. I don’t expect that to change.  It’s tough to play games when you know you’re out of it, but this will show me who they are. It’s part of character. Playing in tough games is not easy, but it will tell you what kind of players you have.”

Green did not have a problem with his team’s effort Wednesday, and thought the first period was excellent. Several turnovers led to goals in the second, though, and that turned the game.

Read more about the Utica Comets