Courtesy of @TheAHL.com
Immediately after finishing their game last night the Comets jumped on a bus and drove the four and a half hours to Toronto to partake in their third contest in three days, as they took on the well-rested Marlies.
Read on past the jump for a recap of another 2-1 victory.
The Toronto Marlies (28-16-2-2) are the AHL Affiliate of the.. wait for it.. wait for it.. Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re currently ranked 3rd in the AHL West and 22nd in AHL Puck Possession. This game marked the second time these two teams have played this year, with the Comets losing to the Marlies back on January 4th.
The Marlies were the much more rested team coming into this game having only played one game in the past week. During the AHL All-Star Break the Marlies played an exhibition game against Farjestad BK of the SHL, but wound up resting many of their key players. They also dressed the vampire and ex-Canuck, Mike Duco, in today’s line-up. It’s good to see that he’s still kicking around somewhere.
Injuries continue to mount for the Comets as they are basically having as much luck on that front as their parent club these days. Now joining O’Reilly, Tommernes, and Andersson are both Lepine and Ferriero. They weren’t a very deep to begin with, but they’ve somehow managed to keep trucking along.
Starting the game between the pipes was Cannata, who most recently made 6 of 8 stops in a relief effort on Friday night. In his last 4 appearances he has stopped 102 of 108 shots, good for a .944 save percentage. That’s a big step up from the rest of his season, as he appears to be turning a corner.
Here’s a period by period breakdown of how the game went down:
Most of the game can be summed up with the following all-encompassing line: “the Comets are on the penalty kill again”. You’ll notice that it’s a recurring theme in the paragraphs to come.
The first period was fairly even in terms of puck possession with a few chances being traded back and forth. There was a lot of neutral zone play, with some physical stuff mixed in. Archibald had a monster hit on Dylan Yeo, which most certainly isn’t his first big hit on the year.
After a Mike Duco penalty put the Comets on the power play, Jeremy Welsh smacked the puck right out of mid-air (but just below the cross bar) and into the put. That put Utica up 1-0 to end the opening frame, with the shot count going to the Marlies by a close 11-10 margin.
In the second period it seemed like every other two minutes the Comets were back on the penalty kill. Many of the calls were fairly loose and quite boderline, with some questionable calls coming off of what appeared to be legitimate hockey plays. In total, two minutes were given to: Corrado (Holding), Pelletier (Slashing), Marshall (Tripping) and Sauve (interference). Magically the 7th ranked power play of the Marlies was only able to score on one of their attempts.
There were a couple of moments where individual Comets were hit fairly hard and there was concern if they were going to be okay. Mullen was shook up pretty bad; for the Comets to lose another defenseman at this point would’ve been bad news bears. Jensen got hit into the boards with his face hitting the glass and he was taken to the dressing room for examination.. but returned in the third.
Hopefully these guys are okay and no surprise injuries arise on the way back home. The Comets could go a few days without having to hand out another PTO.
Anyways, the score was tied at 1 after 40 minutes, with Toronto holding a narrow 22-20 shots on goal advantage. As I mentioned above, they did well to get out of this with only the one goal against.
The penalty onslaught unfortunately continued early in the 3rd, with the Comets quickly going a man down. Three more penalties were given to the Comets (a total of 9 in the game), but they managed to once again hold the fort and avoid giving up anything to a potent Marlies PP unit.
With the game drawing closer and closer to the end, it was clear that both teams were trying to bring the game to OT where they would get at least the one “loser” point. The Marlies were trapping it up playing the 1-4-0 formation, preventing anything from getting past the neutral zone. With 34 seconds left and OT looking to be all but a guarantee, Pelletier redirected a Biega shot past the Marlies netminder to win the game for his team.
Just for poetic justice, in the final thirty seconds of play the Comets were down a man again as the Marlies had pulled their goalie to give Toronto a 6 on 5 attack. Joe Cannata stood tall, continuing his strong string of appearances.
The Comets goals were scored by Welsh and Pelletier. The assists were given to Stuart, Huskins and Biega. Final shots on goal were 28-24 in favour of the Comets with Cannata making 25 of 26 saves and earning a quality start. The Comets were able to score on 1 of their 3 power plays, and despite Toronto’s top ranked PP and plethora of chances the Marlies were only able to convert on 1 of the 9 power plays.
Given that the Marlies had 9 power plays, it’s a testament to how well Utica played that they were limited to only 26 shots on net. The Comets thoroughly outplayed Toronto despite being exhausted from a busy weekend of action.
Welsh really stood out in this game for the Comets. He had a number of great chances throughout the game and was the one to put the Comets first on the board. Jokingly Pelletier brought the puck on his goal to Welsh after he scored his first goal on the season, after having played 23 games with Utica.
It was a good game for Cannata who has generally had an unimpressive year. I still firmly believe he should be in the ECHL as a starter to earn big minutes and have a better chance of developing. On the year he was .894 heading into this game, but obviously saw those numbers rise. In his last three starts he has been 3-0-0, 1.30 GAA and a .962. Not sustainable but something positive to build off of.
With this win the Comets are now at the highest ranking they’ve been all year (at least temporarily). They are currently ranked 13th in the West and are 24th in the league. They are also only 4.5 games out of a playoff position. With a bit of “puck luck” Utica could be in the Calder Cup this year, but in the next twenty-some games that’s a steep mountain to climb.
This has been a tough weekend for the Comets, with three games in three days, against two tough teams. They did well to pull 4 points out of it, to say the least. It will not be the last three game weekend for the Comets as they look to repeat the same next weekend with Friday, Saturday and Sunday games at Syracuse, Binghamton, and Albany.
Until next weekend!