CLEVELAND – The second period hasn’t exactly been the most kind to the Utica Comets this season.
That was far from the case Saturday against the Cleveland Monsters.
With help from a season-best five-goal second period and goaltender Ivan Kulbakov’s 28 total saves, the Comets cruised to a monster 6-2 victory over Cleveland in the first of back-to-back afternoon games in Ohio.
The result pushed the Comets (19-16-2-1; 41 points, third place) to three consecutive wins over teams they have recently been chasing in the North Division standings. The Comets are 7-3-1-0 in the last 11 games.
It was also a bounce-back performance for Kulbakov — the Comets’ de facto starting netminder after organizational moves this week left them shorthanded — who had allowed eight goals in his last start Dec. 28 against Syracuse. Kulbakov is 6-6-2 this season after the win over Cleveland, his former team.
As part of the offensive surge, the Comets got multi-point efforts from Adam Gaudette (two goals, assist), Vincent Arseneau (two goals) and two assists each from Kole Lind and veterans Wacey Hamilton and Tom Pyatt, who was making his team debut.
Zack MacEwen continued his breakout second season with his 14th goal and Jesse Graham also scored added his third goal in four games during the second period, which the Comets had been outscored 55-37 in entering Saturday.
The Comets broke open a tight game in the second with heavy pressure when they totaled a season-most 21 shots on goal. The Comets’ five goals came over an 11-minute span.
The Comets’ offensive onslaught began 6:30 into the frame when MacEwen scored directly after a faceoff win by Hamilton, who earned his first point of the season after sitting out much of the season because of a concussion.
Soon after, Graham – his third of the season came from the right side on a backdoor feed from Carter Bancks – and Arseneau – on a rebound – extended the lead to 3-0 about 1:15 apart.
Gaudette – who had a standout effort throughout the game – chipped in with a pair of goals over the last six minutes. On the first, the rookie forward found time and space in the slot before firing a laser over J.F. Berube’s shoulder. Then, with the Comets on their fourth power play of the game, Gaudette tapped in a pass from Brendan Gaunce with 2:24 to play.
The goal would effectively end Berube’s day with 23 saves on 28 shots. He was replaced by Brad Thiessen in the third period.
Arseneau’s fourth goal in the last four games – on another rebound midway through the third – pushed the lead to 6-0 before Cleveland (17-12-4-1, 39 points) broke up Kulbakov’s shutout with two goals 1:23 apart.
Comets 6, Monsters 2
Utica 0 5 1 - 6
Cleveland 0 0 2 - 2
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Hamilton Uti (high-sticking), 9:07; Gaunce Uti (holding), 13:32; Kero Uti (hooking), 13:32; MacInnis Cle (cross-checking), 15:05; Collins Cle (high-sticking), 17:28.
2nd Period-1, Utica, MacEwen 14 (Hamilton), 6:32. 2, Utica, Graham 3 (Bancks, Hamilton), 9:46. 3, Utica, Arseneau 3 (Gaudette, Pyatt), 11:03. 4, Utica, Gaudette 3 (Pyatt, Saucerman), 14:36. 5, Utica, Gaudette 4 (Gaunce, Lind), 17:42. Penalties-served by Milano Cle (bench minor - too many men), 3:23; Sherwood Cle (tripping), 11:03; served by Abramov Cle (bench minor - too many men), 15:36.
3rd Period-6, Utica, Arseneau 4 (Lind), 9:13. 7, Cleveland, Milano 8 (Sherwood, Prapavessis), 13:31. 8, Cleveland, Gerbe 8 (Letestu, Carlsson), 14:54. Penalties-Scott Cle (cross-checking), 0:21.
Shots on Goal-Utica 7-21-12-40. Cleveland 10-9-11-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Utica 0 / 5; Cleveland 0 / 3.
Goalies-Utica, Kulbakov 6-6-2 (30 shots-28 saves). Cleveland, Berube 11-9-3 (28 shots-23 saves); Thiessen 3-1-1 (12 shots-11 saves).
Referees-Jordan Deckard (14), Jarrod Ragusin (2). Linesmen-Ray King (55), Denis Urban (50).