The defeat ends the Utica Comets record breaking start.
All good things must come to an end, and this time it was the Utica Comets AHL record-setting thirteen-game win streak to start the season. The streak ended on Wednesday night when the Rochester Americans defeated the Comets 4-2 before a full house at the Adirondack Bank Center, handing them their first loss of the season.
The fourth time was apparently the charm for the Americans and goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, as he has been the team starting netminder for all four meetings against Utica so far this season – including three in the last week alone. Sean Malone opened the scoring at just four minutes and ten seconds into the game while on the power play. Rochester set up in the one-three-one in the Utica zone and Jack Quinn and Malone did the rest. Quinn was able to feed Malone from the left side, and Malone wired a shot past Comets goaltender Nico Daws from the bumper position for the early one to nothing lead.
Despite the early goal, Rochester only managed one shot on goal through the first twelve minutes of the period. During that time, the Comets were able to generate scoring chances and had two power-play chances of their own, but Luukkonen was able to shut them down. This would open the door for the Americans to extend their lead, which they did with about five and a half minutes left in the opening period. Michael Mersch fed Casey Fitzgerald from the left side, who let go a “seeing-eye” wristshot from the point that made through a screen in front of Daws to make the score two to nothing. That score held through the end of the period and into the first intermission.
On Tuesday, the New Jersey Devils announced they had recalled Chase DeLeo (who was the Comets leading scorer), and in turn, reassigned Alexander Holtz to Utica. At only one minute into the second period, it was an “I’m back” moment for Holtz, as he pulled an Auston Matthews-like curl and drag from the right circle and snapped a shot past Luukkonen to get the Comets on the board. Reilly Walsh drew the lone assist on the goal, extending his point-scoring streak to five games.
With no further scoring from either side in the second period, a third-period showdown was set up with the Americans entering the frame with a one-goal lead. Marian Studenic of the Comets took an early interference penalty, but not only did his team kill the penalty, but it also wound up working in their favor. As Studenic stepped out of the penalty box, he scooped up a loose puck and streaked in on Luukkonen all alone on a breakaway. He was hauled down from behind, and the referee pointed to center ice indicating a penalty shot had been awarded. Studenic made the most of his opportunity and beat Luukkonen high to the glove side to tie the game and send the crowd into a frenzy.
After the Studenic goal, the game developed a “next goal wins” type of vibe. Unfortunately for Utica, that goal would be scored by Rochester with just under seven minutes left. A loose puck from a poke check was corraled by Mason Jobst in the high slot, who in turn spotted Brett Murray breaking in from the right side. Jobst slid the puck over to Murray who blasted the puck past Daws to restore the Americans lead. Sean Malone scored his second of the game into an empty net with thirty-nine seconds left to salt the game away and give the Rochester Americans the 4-2 victory.
Notes: Utica outshot Rochester 29-23…Utica was 0/2 on the power play, Rochester was 1/3…Malone led Rochester scorers with two points (both goals), three Comets had one point each…With tonight’s goal, Alexander Holtz now has his six with the Comets in only five games played. He is tied for the team lead in that category with Joe Gambardella…This was Daws’s (and the Comets) first loss of the season, his record is now 7-1…Studenic’s penalty shot was the second of the season for the Comets, and the first to be converted…Rochester next plays the Hershey Bears at home on Friday night, the Comets open a two-game series in Charlotte on Saturday night.