Utica Comets win fourth straight game to start the season.
It was trick or treat night at the Adirondack Bank Center, and what at first looked like a trick on the home crowd turned into a treat, as the Utica Comets defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms by a score of 5-2. The win keeps Utica in first place in the AHL North Division.
This game featured the returns of Cal O’Reilly and Adam Clendening, members of the Comets 2015 Calder Cup finalist team. Making their debuts for the current Comets were defenseman Colton White and forward Patrick McGrath. White was recently assigned to Utica by the New Jersey Devils. The Comets played the game without newly appointed captain Ryan Schmelzer and alternate captain Joe Gambardella.
The Phantoms controlled play in the first period, as the Comets didn’t seem to have their legs under them after being off for nearly a week. Goaltender Nico Daws, himself returning from New Jersey, held Lehigh Valley scoreless in the first period by stopping all ten shots he faced – including two point blank chances by the Phantoms. His counterpart, Samuel Ersson, turned aside all six of Utica shots.
The second period would bring more of the same, as Lehigh Valley continued to control play. Helping this was the fact the Comets had to kill two minor penalties in the earlier going of the period – which they did. Utica would go on to kill all three of Lehigh Valley’s power play chances for the game, maintaining their AHL best 100% penalty kill rate for the season. Shortly after the Phantoms second power play was denied, Ersson made his biggest save of the night by stopping Utica’s Nolan Foote on a breakaway.
The Phantoms would be the first to break through on the scoreboard with five minutes and forty-seven seconds left in the second period. Linus Hogberg won a face-off back to the point and then Wyatte Wylie’s shot was tipped in front by German Rubstov past Daws to give the visiting team a one to nothing lead. A goal by Hayden Hodgson one and a half minutes later staked Lehigh Valley to a two to nothing lead.
It looked as though the Comets would go to the locker room down two goals, but with twenty-five seconds left, Utica’s Nate Schnarr had other ideas. He took a stretch pass out of the defensive zone by AJ Greer and beat Ersson on a breakaway to give the Comets life heading into the second intermission.
In keeping with the Halloween theme of the night, the Comets rose from the dead in the third period. It started early, as Alexander Holtz banged home a rebound off of a Chase DeLeo shot at just over a minute into the period to knot the score at two. Two and a half minutes later Utica Comets defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone, broke in on Ersson and beat him on the short side with a wrist shot to give the Comets their first lead of the night. Utica was rolling, and not even a brief power outage would stop them.
An insurance goal was added with a little over seven minutes left, when Chase DeLeo fed a pass to Alexander Holtz on a two on one that Holtz buried for his team leading fifth goal. Fabian Zetterlund would add an empty net goal to seal the Comets 5-2 win. Nico Daws earned his second win of the season with an outstanding effort in this game.
Three Stars of the Game:
- #1 Alexander Holtz
- #2. Chase DeLeo
- #3. Nico Daws
Notes: DeLeo led the Comets in points for the game with three (all assists), he was also an alternate captain in the absence of Gambardella…Lehigh Valley outshot Utica by a total of 33-22….Lehigh Valley was 0/3 on the power play, while Utica was 0/1….the Comets have had the fewest chances on the power play in the AHL this season with only 7….The Comets are the only team in the AHL that has not given up a power play goal this season….The Comets have had a lot of time between games to start the season, but that changes next weekend when they play games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.