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Utica Comets Notebook: Oct 19, 2015

by Mark Caswell / Vancouver Canucks
A weekly look at the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.

Last Week in Review: For the first time in franchise history the Comets visited the XL Center in Hartford, C.T. to take on the home town Wolf Pack. Led by 2015 All-Star goaltender, Magnus Hellberg, the Wolf Pack shut out the Comets 3-0.

Business Side of Things:

The Streak: With the first two games of the season sold out, Comets have extended their sell out streak to 17 games. The Streak dates back to April 10, 2015 vs the Adirondack Flames, and runs through the 13 home dates at The AUD. A limited number of tickets remain for the Comets following home dates on Oct. 24 (Syracuse), Nov. 4 (Portland), Nov. 6 (Toronto), and Nov. 7 (Providence).

Saturday, October 17: Utica Comets @ Hartford Wolf Pack – L 0-3

The Utica Comets are still in search of their first win after dropping their second game of the season by the score of 3-0 to the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center on Saturday night. Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg pitched a 30-save shutout en route to his second win of the season.

The Comets penalty-killing unit successfully killed off all four Wolf Pack power-play opportunities, and are a perfect seven-for-seven on the season.

A Look Ahead:

The Comets kick off their home schedule with a three-game homestand starting on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 21: Utica Comets (0-2-0-0) vs Rochester Americans (2-2-0-0) SOLD OUT

Where: Utica Memorial Auditorium
When: 7:00pm EST
NHL Affiliate: Buffalo Sabres
Season Series: 0-1-0-0

Comets vs. Amerks: The Comets seek to avenge their season-opening 2-1 loss on Oct. 17 to the Rochester Amerks. Former Comets captain Cal O’Reilly, now the captain of the Amerks, will make his first return trip to The AUD. Pre-game festivities include a banner raising ceremony, celebrating the Comets 2014-15 Western Conference Championship.

About the Amerks: Just seven players that skated in the team’s season-opening game on Oct. 9 appeared in their 2014-15 season finale. The Amerks have been the beneficiary of a massive roster overhaul over the past 9 months for their parent club, the Buffalo Sabres, and have had an influx of talent join their roster. In just four games played, 16 different players have contributed points, with Matt Ellis (3-1-4), and rookie Jean Dupuy (0-4-4) leading the charge. In net Linus Ullmark has started two of the team’s four games and possesses a 1-1 record, with a 2.55 goals against average, and a .931 save percentage.

Friday, October 23: Utica Comets (0-2-0-0) vs Hershey Bears (1-2-0-0) SOLD OUT

Where: Utica Memorial Auditorium
When: 7:00pm EST
NHL Affiliate: Washington Capitals
Season Series: 0-0-0-0

Comets vs. Bears: This is the first all-time meeting between the clubs.

About the Bears: With a 1-2 start out of the gate, the Bears, like the Comets, are searching to gain some early season traction. Last year’s East Division champions owned the second-best home record in the AHL last season going 26-7-3-2 (57 points), trailing only the eventual champion Manchester Monarchs. Led by fifth-year pro Carter Camper (1-3-4), rookie Riley Barber (3-0-3), and 2015 All-Star Chris Bourque (1-2-3) the Bears have averaged exactly three goals a game.

Saturday, October 24: Utica Comets (0-2-0-0) vs Syracuse Crunch (2-1-0-0)

Where: Utica Memorial Auditorium
When: 7:00pm EST
NHL Affiliate: Tampa Bay Lightning
Season Series: 0-0-0-0

Comets vs. Crunch: This game will be the first installment of the Galaxy Cup rivalry for the 2015-16 season. The Comets have taken home the prized possession in each of its first two seasons.

About the Crunch: Syracuse’s 5-2 loss to the Wolf Pack Sunday was their first loss of the season. Last year Syracuse went 41-25-10-0 for 92 points and exited the playoffs in a first-round sweep to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Paving the way for this year’s Crunch are Jeff Tambellini (2-1-3), and Dylan Blujus (0-3-3). In net for the Crunch, with a perfect 2-0 record, is a familiar name. Latvian Olympic goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis has allowed just four goals in two games, and has turned aside 53 of the 57 shots opponents have fired at him.

Shooting Star of the Week: Joe Cannata

Despite taking the loss in the Comets lone game this week, the goaltender made 25 saves, several of which were big saves in key moments of the game. On the season he has posted a 2.03 save percentage, and a .918 save percentage.

Comets Leaders

Goals: Nicklas Jensen (1)
Assists: Hunter Shinkaruk & Michael Zalewski (1)
Points: Jensen, Shinkaruk & Zalewski (1)
Power Play Goals:
Penalty Minutes: Mackenze Stewart (15)
Shorthanded Goals:
Shots On Goal: Nicklas Jensen (8)
Plus/Minus: Michael Zalewski (+1)
GAA: Joe Cannata (2.03)
Save Percentage: Joe Cannata (.918)

Rapid Fire

Home Cooking: The Western Conference’s best home team last year (53 points), return to home ice for the first time this season. Last year’s team won 25 games on home ice, the third most wins at home in the American Hockey League.

Jensen Train: Nicklas Jensen scored the Comets lone goal of the season with a perfectly-placed wrist shot in the third period of the season’s first game. The tally was his 36th of his AHL career, and his third in five games, including the playoffs. Jensen also paces the team in shots, with eight. The Canucks’ first round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Level Draft (29th overall) is entering his fourth season of professional hockey, all with the Canucks organization.

Pro Debut: Comets’ defenseman Ashton Sautner made his professional hockey debut this past Saturday night. Sautner’s debut ended without a point and a -2 rating. Sautner, undrafted, was signed to a three-year deal by the Canucks in March of 2015. The defenseman scored 51 points (12-39-51), the third most on the team for the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings last season. During the 2013-14 season he won the WHL’s Plus-Minus award with a +59 rating.

Cardiac Comets: The one-goal game trend that Comets fans have become accustomed to is back. Last year the Comets played in a league high 44 one-goal games. During the 2013-14 season the Comets were one of three teams (Norfolk Admirals, Providence Bruins) to play in a league high 46 one-goal games. The Comets had the second most one-goal game wins with a record of 24-13-5-4 during that season.

Long Time No See: For the first time since March 17, 1993, the Hershey Bears will return to the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Bears defeated the Utica Devils 6-2 in the game. The Devils’ loss snapped a four-game winning streak, which included a 5-1 win over the Bears the game prior, on Mar. 13.

New Kids on the Block: The Comets roster of 28-players currently consists of nine players who have yet to play a full season in the AHL. Three rookies on defense Ashton Sautner, Anton Cederholm, and Jordan Subban, will all be looking to make their mark in the professional ranks. Cole Cassels, and Mackenze Stewart are their offensive counterparts. Subban, Cassels and Stewart made their professional hockey debuts on Saturday night.

Bench Boss: Travis Green enters his third year of being the Comets Head Coach. In that time he has compiled an 82-52-18 record (.599 winning percentage). Including playoffs the Castlegar, B.C. native has led the Comets to 105 total wins, and just three wins shy of winning the Calder Cup last season.

A Hat Trick of Medicine: Three of the top five point-scorers for the 2010-11 Medicine Hat Tigers are on the Comets roster. Linden Vey (116 points), Hunter Shinkaruk (42), and Wacey Hamilton (73) paced the Tigers to a third round exit in the WHL. Curtis Valk also played in 56 games for the Tigers, and recorded 17 points.

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