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Utica ‘Comeback’ Comets Stun Binghamton, Reach .500

Comets Binghamton
(File photo courtesy of Utica Comets)

There aren’t many times in the American Hockey League that a 4-0 lead isn’t safe; but, a defiant Utica Comets beat the odds by erasing a deficit and winning in a shootout for the second straight night on Saturday.

Fans inside the Broome County Veterans Arena were stunned when the visiting Comets, trailing 4-0, clawed all the way back to send the game into a shootout and came away with a 6-5 victory.  The win, Utica’s fourth straight, elevated the team to a .500 record for the first time in this inaugural season.

The Comets were led by goals from Alex Biega, Ray Kaunisto, Pascal
Pelletier, Alex Friesen and Brandon DeFazio, with centers Cal O’Reilly and
Kellan Lain adding two assists apiece.  Joe Cannata put together one of his
finest performances of the season, as he earned the victory with 27 saves on
28 shots in relief of Joacim Eriksson.  DeFazio also clinched the game
during the shootout, with a page out of Nicklas Jensen’s playbook, while
Pelletier scored as well and Cannata turned aside four of five.

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Binghamton opened the scoring midway through the first period, as
Jean-Gabriel Pageau beat Eriksson with the Senators shorthanded. An unlucky
break for the Comets saw Pascal Pelletier’s stick break in the offensive
zone, which sprung a 2-on-1 the other way. Buddy Robinson hit Pageau in
stride, who one touched the puck into the Utica net to make it 1-0.

The Senators opened up a 4-0 lead with three goals over just 79 seconds of
game play early in the second period.

The first was the second goal of the evening for Pageau, who once again
slotted a feed from Robinson into Eriksson’s net.  The goal, which came just
five seconds after a minor penalty to Alex Friesen had expired, was the
twelfth of the season for Pageau in the third multi-goal game of his AHL
career.  Jim O’Brien also had an assist on the play, his 13th with
Binghamton this season.

David Dziurzynski extended the Binghamton lead to 3-0, as he backhanded a
shot from point blank range over Eriksson’s blocker hand.  The goal, which
was Dziurzynski’s sixth of the season, broke a 10 game scoreless drought for
the winger. Center Wacey Hamilton collected the only assist on the play.

Binghamton completed their run with a blast from Michael Sdao, to extend the
lead from three goals to four. The big defenseman collected his fifth of the"The win, Utica’s fourth straight, elevated the team to a .500 record for the first time in this inaugural season."
season, as he walked right down the middle and one-timed a shot past
Eriksson.  The goal spelled the end of the evening for the Swede, who
finished with 12 saves on 16 shots.

Utica got one back at the 12:03 mark of the second, as Alex Biega finished
off a nice rush with a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Lawson.
Pelletier took a feed from Friesen and drove to the middle of the ice,
before he fed Biega for the goal. The tally was the second of the season for
Biega, his first with a goaltender in net.

The Comets drew within two just 90 seconds later, as Kaunisto picked up his
first in a Utica jersey on a scramble in front.  Defenseman John Negrin
wired a shot from the point that was deflected by Kellan Lain into the
Binghamton goal crease, where Kaunisto was on hand to put it home.  The
assist was also the first point of Negrin’s career with Utica, while
Kaunisto’s goal was his first in the AHL since Nov. 29, 2013 when he played
for the Syracuse Crunch.

Utica’s consecutive penalty kill streak ended at 18 attempts as Matt Puempel
fired a one-timer from the slot past Cannata, the first and only shot to
beat the Merrimack graduate.  Puempel wasted no time as he connected on a
feed from Mark Stone to increase the lead back to three goals.  Center
Stephane Da Costa also picked up a point on the play, with the secondary
assist.

The Comets completed the highest scoring period in franchise history, as
Pelletier earned his 12th multi-point game of the season with a wrist shot
from the right point, which got through a screen in front of Lawson.  Biega
picked up his second point of the game with an assist, while Cal O’Reilly
extended his scoring streak to five games with the secondary helper.

Alex Friesen used a screen from 6’6” center Kellan Lain to pull the Comets
within one goal, as his shot from the point snuck past Lawson and found the
back of the net.  Friesen’s goal, his second of the season, came off of
assists from defenseman Kent Huskins and Lain himself, which gave the Lake
Superior State graduate his second multi-point game of the season.

Despite three penalties called against them during the final stanza, Utica
proved once again how resilient they are, as Brandon DeFazio netted the
game-tying goal for the second time in as many nights, with a shorthanded
marker 10:07 from the final buzzer in the third.  DeFazio tied a career high
with his  11th tally of the season, with O’Reilly picking up yet another
assist on a silky pass.

After an overtime period that saw no goals, but several chances for
Binghamton, courtesy of a 4-on-3 power-play, the Comets once again were
victorious in the shootout.  Pelletier opened the scoring in the first
round, while DeFazio and Puempel split in round three. Cannata sealed the
deal with saves in the final two rounds to earn Utica the victory.

The Comets finally get a bit of schedule reprieve, with no weekday games on
the slate. Utica does, however, have a trip on their hands, with their final
two games at the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre on Friday and
Saturday evening. Both games are set to faceoff at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

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