The Utica Comets defeat the Rochester Americans by a score of 3-2 on Wednesday night to tie an AHL record with their eleventh straight win to start the season.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Utica Comets got the job done.
Missing Fabian Zetterlund, who was called up to the New Jersey Devils earlier in the day, and leading scorer Chase DeLeo who missed his fourth straight game, the Comets needed an outstanding performance from one player in particular to pick up the win on Wednesday night. They got that performance from goaltender Akira Schmid.
Schmid turned aside twenty-five of twenty-seven shots from the Rochester Americans to earn his fifth victory in five games played this season. Included in those twenty-seven were several grade A chances that Schmid thwarted, frustrating the Rochester attack. This would be his second straight start, as he manned the net for the Comets on Sunday afternoon against Belleville as well.
Despite only having twelve shots on goal for the entire game, the Comets would open the scoring at just under five minutes into the start of the game. Aarne Talvitie ripped a shot from the left side past reigning AHL Player of the Week Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to notch his fourth goal of the season. Samuel Laberge recorded the only assist on the goal, earning his first AHL point this season.
The Americans spent the last three minutes of the first period on the power play, including sixteen seconds of five on three time. Despite peppering the Utica goal with shots during their power play opportunities, including two point blank one timer chances, Schmid stopped everything and the Comets took a one to nothing lead into the locker room.
The second period started the same way as the first period ended – with Rochester still on the power play. Just before this power play ended, Schmid would rob Americans captain Michael Mersch on a wide-open chance from the slot. Five minutes later Schmid’s counterpart, Luukkonen would come up big himself on a rebound chance by Utica’s Graeme Clarke. Shortly after that, Rochester tied the game when defenseman Ethan Prow took a pass from Linus Weissbach and wired a shot from the top of the right circle past Schmid on the stick side to tie the game at one.
Three and a half minutes later, the Amerks (as the Rochester Americans are sometimes known as) took their first lead of the game. It started with the Comets being assessed two separate minor penalties on one play to set up a two minute five on three power play for Rochester. Jack Quinn would make it a four on three five seconds later when he took an interference penalty right off of the face-off. The Comets nearly killed the power play off but Sean Malone found Brett Murray in the slot who redirects the puck past Schmid for the go ahead marker.
The Comets went on the power play themselves just over three minutes after the Murray goal, and made Rochester pay for it. Reilly Walsh fired a wrist shot from the point through a screen set up in front by Nate Schnarr (who appeared to tip it) and past Luukkonen to tie the game at two. With less than a minute to go in the period, Luukkonen gave up another goal – this one he no doubt like to have back. Utica defenseman Robbie Russo skated the puck down the right side of the Rochester zone and launched a shot their net from behind the goal line. It banked off of Luukkonen’s back and trickled into the goal to give the Comets a three to two lead heading into the third period.
The third period became a defensive battle as there were only seven total shots on goal (two by the Comets and five from the Americans). Rochester pressed the offense in the final minute with Luukkonen on the bench for the extra attacker, but Schmid and the Comets held firm to secure the 3-2 win. Utica can now set the AHL record for most consecutive wins to start a season at home on Friday night against the Charlotte Checkers.
Notes: Rochester outshot Utica by a margin of 27 to 12….Utica was 1/4 on the power play, Rochester was 1/6….Marian Studenic was credited with an assist on Reilly Walsh’s goal. With it, he has recorded a point in every game he has played as a Comet….Akira Schmid continues to lead the AHL in both GAA and save percentage….This was the second of twelve times these two teams will meet this season.