Comets fail to take advantage of fast start

Published Oct 10, 2018 at 4:00pm

UTICA — The Utica Comets scored first but stumbled in the second period and lost to the Toronto Marlies, 7-3, Oct. 5 at the Adirondack Bank Center.

The team started its American Hockey League season at home for the first time in its six-year history.

“We gave up too much,” said head coach Trent Cull after the loss, “specific to the neutral zone.”

Reid Boucher, who led the team in goal scoring last season, got the Comets on the board first. The Comets went on the power play 28 seconds into the game. Boucher grabbed a rebound around the right face-off circle and snapped off a shot that beat Marlies goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo 59 seconds into the season. Zack MacEwen and Tanner MacMaster tallied the assists.

Richard Bachman stopped a breakaway with seven minutes left in the first frame and the home team took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The lead didn’t last. The defending Calder Cup champion Marlies scored four times in the second period and never looked back.

Former Comet Jordan Subban evened the game up at 1-1 with a power play goal 50 seconds into the second period. Pierre Engvall gave the Marlies their first lead of the night when he corralled a loose puck near the blue line and snapped off a shot that found the back of the net.

Less than two minutes later, Timothy Liljegren extended the lead to 3-1, when he fired a shot over Bachman’s shoulder. 

Trevor Moore got out on a breakaway off a neutral zone turnover while the teams were skating four to a side to make it 4-1 with six minutes to go in the second.

MacEwen pulled the Comets within two with 95 seconds left in the middle period when he picked the pocket of a defender down low and skated through the crease before shooting high across Kaskisuo’s face.

The Comets cut the lead to one when Boucher managed his second goal of the night to open the third period. He finished a tic-tac-toe play with Tanner MacMaster and Ashton Sautner by shooting stick side from between the circles 3:09 into the last period.

Midway through the period, Carl Grundstrom restored the two-goal lead for the Marlies, firing a shot through a screen that snuck between Bachman and the left post.

Moore and Josh Jooris added late shorthanded goals to put the game out of reach.

Bachman finished with 32 saves and took the loss.

“They capitalized on theirs and and we didn’t capitalize on ours,” Cull said of the teams’ scoring chances. Regardless, he said, “there are tons of positives,” though there are, he added, plenty of little things to correct. “We have to work on that too.”

Cull was happy with the effort in the first and third periods. And the team’s identity is emerging, he said. “We have to be a team that works like dogs.”

“We made some mistakes and they countered them,” said team captain Carter Bancks, but “we created a lot of offense.”

He said he liked how the team competed: “Guys worked hard.” The first game is a learning experience, said the third year captain. The team has to “sharpen up a few things.” He added, “We’ll be all right.”