Sens Squeak Past Comets in Thriller

UTICA - If at first you don’t succeed, try again. That was Mike Hoffman’s motto as he faced a five-on-three advantage with just under a minute left in a tie game. Hoffman was stopped twice by Utica  Comets’ netminder Joe Cannata before finally pushing through with a wrist shot with just 28 seconds remaining to give the Binghamton Senators a 4-3 victory in a hard fought game in front of a sold out Utica Memorial Auditorium Friday night.

“Hoff[man] has been really shooting the puck well, but he’s just missed,” Binghamton head coach Luke Richardson said. “I’m really happy for him getting the winner.”

The game as a whole was as thrilling as the conclusion, with both teams seemingly exchanging blows both physically and in the scoring department.

The Comets (10-16-1-1 22 points 5th North) got on the board first just 4:12 into the game. Darren Archibald redirected a puck off his skate in front of Nathan Lawson after a sharp angle shot from the right side boards. Mark Stone argued it was kicked in, but the goal was not reviewed and it was 1-0 Utica on Archibald’s fourth goal of the year with Pascal Pelletier and Alexandre Grenier assisting on the goal. It was Pelletier’s team leading 17th assist. He added his 18th later

Binghamton (17-9-0-3 39 points 1st East) answered later in the period, as Matt Puempel scored his first of two goals on the night. The B-Sens were able to capitializ on Pelletier’s goaltender interference penalty, as Derek Grant let go a hard slapshot from the left that Cannata stopped. The rebound went all the way to just below the right faceoff dot, where Puempel corralled the puck and shot it over the goalie’s right pad to get his eighth goal of the year.

“Good shot by Grant, and the nice rebound came out,” Puempel said.

While Binghamton wasn’t playing bad in the opening frame, they mustered only five shots on net to start, but after a quiet first period, the game took a complete 360 in the second, with two quick goals setting the tone

Before many fans were in their seats, Grenier scored his seventh of the year. the winger came from the right side and powered into the slot, turning around past his defender, Jim O’Brien. On the turnaround he let go a wrist shot that passed Lawson to give Utica a 2-1 lead 1:26 into the second stanza. Pelletier and Alex Biega assisted on the play.

Just 47 seconds later, Puempel struck again, leading to his first multi-goal game.

“The second one,” Puempel reminisced, “Danny [New] made a nice play on and I was fortunate enough to get a tip on it.”

“He’s done a great job,” Richardson said. “He’s developing into a full two way player. I think that’s going to go a long way for him.”

New and Andre Petersson assisted on Puempel’s ninth of the year at 2:13.

Then, the game got physical. Archibald landed what appeared to be a clean hit on Stephane Da Costa, but Michael Sdao had other thoughts. He jumped Archibald at the 10:58 mark, losing the ensuing fight. In addition to the loss, Sdao was assessed an instigating penalty and a 10 minute misconduct. There was also a bench minor after coach Richardson argued the instigator. Despite the penalties, Binghamton was able to get through the 5-on-3 unscathed, and capitalized on Alex Mallet’s roughing penalty.

“I thought we put ourselves in penalty trouble, me included,” Richardson admitted. “I think the referees do the best job they can and the calls went both ways.

“…it was chippy. Both teams were chippy and taking untimely penalties and sometimes undisciplinary penalties.” (sic)

On the ensuing powerplay, at 14:42, the B-Sens used their set play to get the puck from Cole Schneider on the left to Mark Stone, who had a wide open right side of the net to score on. Da Costa was assessed the second assist.

Appropriately, Utica answered right back. After Tyler Eckford’s slashing penalty, Grenier scored his second of the night and eighth of the year as he got the feed from Patrick Mullen on the left point. Grenier came in close on Lawson’s left and after getting stopped on his first attempt, put the rebound over his left pad to tie the game at 3 goals apiece 15:22 into the second.

In all, there were four goals and 12 penalties totaling 39 minutes and a game misconduct to Kellan Lain for boarding over the course of the second period of play.

The game appeared to settle down in the third, with Binghamton beginning to dominate play. They held Utica to just seven shots while letting go 13. The first 12 were stopped by Cannata, but the 13th was game, set, and match. At the 18:03 mark, Branon DeFazio took an interference penalty. Just a minute later, Pelletier was charged with what appeared to be a phantom high-sticking infraction. With 57 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey to end the period, Binghamton was awarded a gift, and they took advantage at 19:32.

Chris Wideman sent the puck from the high middle slot to Hoffman who let go such a hard one-timer that he fell down in the right circle. IT was his team leading 15th goal and ended the game with a 4-3 final score, as Binghamton steals the game and wins their fourth straight.

“I just wanted to put it away,” Hoffman said. “I had a good chance right before that.

“…you want to keep going and making plays and good things will happen and that’s what happened here.”

The Senators will enjoy a day off before returning to the practice ice Sunday in preparation for their New Years Eve matchup against their rival Norfolk Admirals, while the Comets take on the Hamilton Bulldogs in Utica on Saturday night.

“It’s a team we haven’t played in a long time,” Richardson said of Norfolk. “I like that. It keeps us on our toes. Four wins doesn’t mean anything to Norfolk.”

NOTES:

  • Three of Binghamton’s four goals came on the man advantage. Coming in, they were fifth in the league on the advantage.
  • Binghamton scored 4 goals, increasing their average to 3.57 goals/game. They now lead the Eastern Conference with 107 goals for.
  • Andrew Hammond was supposed to start tonight’s game, but still was recovering from the flu, so backed up Lawson
  • Wacey Hamilton is the latest flu victim, as he missed the game with a stomach flu. Darren Kramer was out with injury, while Mark Borowiecki and Shane Prince returned to the lineup
  • One lucky fan walked away with $12,110 as the 50/50 raffle jackpot, a Comets record.

THREE STARS:

3. Alexandre Grenier (UTI) 2 G, A

2. Matt Puempel (BIN) 2 G

1. Mike Hoffman (BIN) GWG

Justin Cohen covers the AHL At Large as well as the Binghamton Senators for Inside Hockey. You can follow his game updates at @IHAHL or e-mail him at jpcohen87@gmail.com

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