BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - A thrilling come from behind effort gave the Utica Comets their fourth straight victory, a 6-5 decision over the Binghamton Senators at Broome County Veterans Arena on Saturday evening. The Comets, who at one point trailed 4-0, put up a valiant effort to knot the score and were victorious via the shootout for the third consecutive contest.
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.
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 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.