Vancouver Canucks fans were slightly puzzled when Jacob Markstrom was sent down to Utica last Friday. But upon examining Utica Comets schedule, the roster move that swapped Markstrom with Joacim Eriksson to backup Eddie Lack turned out to be a outstanding maneuver by the Canucks management. Instead of sitting on the bench in the Canucks 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, Markstrom pumped out wins in back-to-back games against the Chicago Wolves and Iowa Wild including a 27-save shutout versus the Wolves.
The Canucks announced Monday morning that Markstrom had been recalled and goaltender Joacim Eriksson was sent back down to Utica.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canucks?src=hash">#Canucks</a> recall <a href="https://twitter.com/j_markstrom">@j_markstrom</a> from <a href="https://twitter.com/UticaComets">@UticaComets</a>. Release - <a href="http://t.co/snMvfhXHtV">http://t.co/snMvfhXHtV</a> <a href="http://t.co/ovhDhPJYYd">pic.twitter.com/ovhDhPJYYd</a></p>— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) <a href="https://twitter.com/VanCanucks/status/577521011219939328">March 16, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Comets 4, Wolves 0.
Jacob Markstrom recorded his 8th shutout of the season and backstopped the Utica Comets to a 4-0 win over the Chicago Wolves on Saturday night.
It was Markstrom's first AHL win since February 20th when the Comets topped the Toronto Marlies 5-2.
Hunter Shinkaruk opened the scoring with his 8th goal of the season at 8:58 of the first period. The first year pro notched his 3rd goal in his last 22 games after being a healthy scratch on Wednesday night in the first of two matches against Chicago. Alex Grenier continued his solid play of late as he weaved into through Wolves zone and found a wide-open Shinkaruk on a 4-on-2 rush that turned out to be the game-winning goal.
After killing off a Shinkaruk penalty, the Comets engaged in another odd-man rush goal. Cal O'Reilly retrieved the puck along the boards in the Comets end and found Alex Friesen in the neutral zone before Friesen dished it back to O'Reilly on a 3-on-1. O'Reilly pulled off a nifty toe-drag around a sprawling Joel Edmundson as the Chicago d-man attempted to take away the pass. O'Reilly wisely out-waited him fed it back to Friesen, who beat Wolves goaltender Matt Clime -- signed by the Canucks to a minor-league contract in 2011 -- for his 8th goal of the season. The Comets headed into the first intermission up 2-0 after scoring their second goal with only 1.8 seconds left on the clock.
The Comets first power-play unit of Sven Baertschi, Cory Conacher, Cal O'Reilly, Alexandre Grenier and Bobby Sanguinetti jumped onto the scoresheet midway through the second frame. Baertschi and O'Reilly passed it back-and-forth between the half-wall and blueline before Baertschi found Bobby Sanguinetti for blast from the far-side point. Sanguinity's low shot was knocked down by Conacher trying to redirect. Grenier got control of the lose puck and fired it on net before getting his own rebound and tapped a back-hander past the out of position Climie. Grenier's 13th goal of the season was his second in as many games.
Comets head coach formed a new first line of Friesen lined up in the middle between big-body Brendan Gaunce and 5-foot-8 winger Cory Conacher. The trio sealed the deal when Brendan Gaunce potted an empty-netter with 1:50 remaining in the 3rd period to match his goal output to his jersey number. Conacher and Friesen drew the assists on Gaunce's 10th goal in his first year of professional hockey.
Conacher, Friesen, Sanguinetti, O'Reilly and Grenier all finished with multi-point games. Grenier's 2 points gives him 7 in his last 6 games played. Grenier and Alex Biega lead the Comets with 5 shots on goal.
Sven Baertschi's six-game scoring streak came to an end.
Most complete game I've seen from the #Comets in quite some time. 4-0 win. 35-27 in shots. 6/6 on PK. 1/7 on PP. Bottle this one.— Brendan Burke (@brendanmburke) March 15, 2015
The game featured a prime candidate for a blunder highlight reel as two Chicago players collided trying to clear a loose puck away from their crease.
|V-H||#||Per||Team||Time||Goals||Assists||Type||On Ice (+/-)|
|1 - 0||1||1st||UTI||8:58||H. Shinkaruk (8)||A. Grenier, P. Andersson||V||6 9 16 28 40||H||5 9 22 28 37|
|2 - 0||2||1st||UTI||19:58||A. Friesen (8)||C. O'Reilly, B. Sanguinetti||V||6 8 9 16 37||H||3 8 9 22 37|
|3 - 0||3||2nd||UTI||7:40||A. Grenier (13)||C. Conacher, B. Sanguinetti||PP||V||6 16 28 47 89||H||3 6 24 26|
|4 - 0||4||3rd||UTI||18:10||B. Gaunce (10)||C. Conacher, A. Friesen||EN||V||3 8 10 37 89||H||8 14 15 18 37 42|
Comets 4, Wild 3 (SO)
The Comets avoided an utter collapse to the worst team in the American Hockey League by barely edging the Iowa Wild 4-3 in a shootout on Sunday evening. The Comets jumped out to a three-goal lead, but allowed the Wild to claw their way back into the game with three-straight unanswered goals in the final 22 minutes of action.
The first period was goalless with the Comets outshooting Iowa 11-5.
A scary moment ensued following the 2nd period face-off as Comets defenceman Andrey Pedan dropped the gloves with Wild defenceman Stu Bickel. Bickel unleashed a series of punches eventually knocking Pedan down to the ice face first. Pedan is widley regarded as one of the toughest fighters in the American Hockey League, so seeing Pedan go down was a bit of an oddity. Pedan left the game after the fight temporarily and returned in the middle of the 2nd period, but stayed in the dressing room at the conclusion 2nd intermission and did not return. Pedan's status was not updated post-game.
Nicklas Jensen broke the scoreless tie at 6:02 of the middle frame when Cal O'Reilly connected a backhanded drop pass to Jensen inside the right circle and the 22-year old Dane quickly snapped home his 12th goal of the season past Iowa's goaltender John Curry. The goal marked Jensen's first goal in his last 8 games and only his 4th goal in his last 30 games. Jensen finished the game with positive plus/minus rating for the first time since February 24th. Jensen registered a game-high of 7 shots on goal.
1:30 after the Jensen goal, Utica capitalized on the power play as Bobby Sanguinetti walked in from the far right after taking a Sven Baertschi pass to notch his 15th goal in a Comets jersey. Sanguinetti, who was signed as a free-agent to help quarterback the Comets power-play this season, fired a wrist-shot from the top of the right face-off dot through a maze of bodies to beat Curry high glove side. Sanguinetti leads all Comets defenceman in scoring on the season and holds a team best +23 rating. Baertschi picked up his 6th point in his 6th game with the Canucks affiliate.
The Comets extended their lead to a three-goal cushion when Alex Friesen tipped in Alex Biega's point shot for his 9th tally of the year. Biega released a blast from the middle of the blueline that Friesen redirected with his forehand to the right of the Iowa crease.
Iowa got on the board at 18:17 on the 2nd period when former Canuck Steve McCarthy fired a slapper that was deflected by Tyler Graovac.
The Comets started the 3rd period down to four defenceman with Pedan and Peter Andersson missing in action. Andersson took a solid hit from Corban Knight late in the 2nd period; Knight was assessed a two-minute elbowing penalty. Brandon DeFazio took exception to the hit and jumped Knight as soon as he departed the penalty box.
The Wild got to within one at 8:01 of the 3rd period when Colin Bowman beat a screened Markstrom with a one-timer on the power play.
Steve McCarthy then tied the game at three all when he notched his first goal of the season and his second point of the night converting on a rebound.
The Wild took advantage of the undermanned Comets squad by outshooting them 14-6 in the final regulation period.
The Comets received a power play in overtime, but couldn't seal the deal as John Curry turned aside all 3 shots he faced in extra time. The game was determined in the shootout with Alex Grenier and Brandon DeFazio both beating the Wild goaltender. Jacob Markstrom stopped Tyler Graovac and Zack Mitchell to solidify the win.
— Comets In Game (@CometsInGame) March 16, 2015
The Comets improved their record to 36-19-6-1 and now sport a 28-0 record when leading after two periods.
Utica's next game is not until Friday at 7 p.m. EST when they welcome the Rochester Americans to the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
|V-H||#||Per||Team||Time||Goals||Assists||Type||On Ice (+/-)|
|1 - 0||1||2nd||UTI||6:02||N. Jensen (12)||C. O'Reilly||V||3 9 16 17 40||H||6 9 11 12 14|
|2 - 0||2||2nd||UTI||7:32||B. Sanguinetti (15)||S. Baertschi, C. O'Reilly||PP||V||6 16 28 47 89||H||12 19 27 41|
|3 - 0||3||2nd||UTI||15:30||A. Friesen (9)||A. Biega, P. Andersson||PP||V||3 8 16 28 40||H||4 7 12 21|
|3 - 1||4||2nd||IA||18:17||T. Graovac (20)||S. McCarthy, J. Blum||PP||V||6 8 29 41||H||4 7 18 22 36|
|3 - 2||5||3rd||IA||8:01||C. Bowman (2)||J. Blum, M. Keranen||PP||V||6 16 24 29||H||7 14 17 27 36|
|3 - 3||6||3rd||IA||13:10||S. McCarthy (1)||B. Sutter||V||3 9 16 28 29||H||7 9 22 27 36|
|Iowa shoots first for each round.|
|21||Dustin Jeffrey (X)||C||49||17||24||41||5||18||6||0||95||17.9|
|47||Sven Baertschi (total)||LW||42||9||22||31||3||10||2||0||85||10.6|
|89||Cory Conacher (total)||LW||34||5||21||26||-6||32||3||0||74||6.8|
|41||Will Acton (total)||C||50||12||9||21||-3||28||0||2||94||12.8|
|37||Andrey Pedan (total)||D||48||3||14||17||9||121||0||0||84||3.6|
|42||Adam Clendening (total) (X)||D||38||1||12||13||-4||20||0||0||89||1.1|
|15||Ronalds Kenins (X)||LW||36||5||7||12||6||23||2||0||61||8.2|
|7||Henrik Tommernes (X)||D||23||3||8||11||-3||8||2||0||43||7.0|
|4||Kane Lafranchise (X)||D||27||2||8||10||-1||4||0||0||36||5.6|
|26||Frank Corrado (X)||D||21||4||4||8||3||17||1||0||50||8.0|
|5||Jeremie Blain (X)||D||12||0||2||2||-4||2||0||0||16||0.0|
|30||Joacim Eriksson (X)||G||34||0||2||2||0||4||0||0||0||0.0|
|27||Tom Sestito (X)||LW||10||1||0||1||-2||20||0||0||11||9.1|
|18||Ryan Jones (X)||LW||5||0||1||1||-2||9||0||0||6||0.0|
|19||Kellan Lain (X)||C||10||0||1||1||1||20||0||0||18||0.0|
|35||Joe Cannata (X)||G||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.0|
|37||Nick Tuzzolino (X)||D||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.0|
|38||Curtis Valk (X)||C||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.0|
|31||Pat Nagle (total)||G||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.0|
|22||Bo Horvat (X)||C||5||0||0||0||0||4||0||0||9||0.0|
|18||Patrick Kennedy (X)||RW||5||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||7||0.0|
*Gamesheets and Statistics courtesy of the American Hockey League.