Chris Higgins first American Hockey League hat trick powered the Utica Comets to a 5-3 win over the Providence Bruins Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Comets regulation win snapped the Bruins 23-game point streak on home ice just two games shy of the American Hockey League’s record.
Chris Higgins (3-0-3), Taylor Fedun (0-2-2), T.J. Hensick (0-2-2), and Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) collected multi-point nights, while Kellen Jones (1-0-1) picked up the game-winning goal with his first goal with the Comets. Richard Bachman made 32 saves for his 13th win of the season. The Comets special teams were a factor in this game as the power-play converted twice on four opportunities against the third best penalty-killing team in the league. The Comets penalty-killing unit was a perfect 2-for-2 against the league’s top ranked power play unit.
Just like yesterday’s game in Albany, the due of Chris Higgins and Alexandre Grenier staked the Comets to 1-0 lead. After he received a pass from Ehrhardt, Grenier appeared to be headed around the back of the net. Before he entered the area of the ice known as “Gretzky’s Office”, Grenier slid a behind-the-back, backhand pass to the slot to Chris Higgins, who one-timed the shot past the Bruins’ goaltender for his third goal in as many games.
The Comets doubled down on their lead when they converted on their first power-play attempt of the game in the opening period’s waning minutes. With the power play unit set-up in the Bruins’ zone, Higgins passed the puck across the blue line to defenseman Taylor Fedun. From there Fedun faked a shot, and instead connected on a pass with Hensick, who was stationed in the far corner. Without missing a beat, Hensick set-up Higgins for a one-time blast from the top of the circle for Higgins’ second goal of the game, and eighth as a Comet.
The Comets appeared to be heading to the break with a 2-0 lead, however, a familiar face had other plans. Former Comets forward, Brandon DeFazio, swept a loose puck past Richard Bachman for his 14th goal of the season with 1.2 seconds remaining in the period.
The Comets power play unit rinsed, washed, and then repeated their efforts from their first power play attempt. The same three players, in the same exact order, factored into the Comets second power-play goal of the evening. After Fedun found Hensick alone on the half wall, Hensick quickly slid the puck to Higgins in the slot for the one-timer goal to complete the Higgins Hat Trick.
As the second period came to a close the Bruins climbed back to within one once again when Frank Vatrano scored his league-leading 31st goal of the season with a wrist shot from just above the face-off dot to Bachman’s right.
After trailing since the 16 minute mark of the first period, the Bruins finally found the equalizer 5:52 into the third period. Alexander Khokhlachev took a pass from Vatrano and squeaked a shot through the legs of Bachman to tie the game at 3-3.
The Comets once again took the lead, this time for good, a little over halfway through the final period. An incredible individual effort from newcomer, Kellen Jones, ended with the puck sitting nicely in the back of the Bruins net. After Jones gained the Bruins zone, he cut across the crease and wristed a shot to the far side of the net as Jeremy Smith defended the short side.
Grenier scored his team-leading fourth empty-net goal of the season to seal the deal with 1:08 left.
With the win the Comets record improved to 31-21-5-3.
The Comets march to the playoffs takes a few days off before kicking back into high gear on Friday night at The AUD. The St. John’s IceCaps and NHL All-Star Game MVP, John Scott, kick off the Comets season-high five game home stand when they make their final trip to the Mohawk Valley for a 7pm puck drop.