The Utica Comets suffer their first loss on the road.
It was a night full of surprises for the Utica Comets, just not the kind they wanted.
Originally the Comets were supposed to play in Hartford tonight, but that game was postponed due to a covid outbreak on the Wolfpack. To accommodate the schedule changes, the game that Utica was supposed to play in Bridgeport in March was instead moved to Saturday night.
It shouldn’t have been a problem, as Utica entered the game with an AHL best 16-1-0-0 record and had Akira Schmid starting goal. Schmid was coming off two straight shutouts, was undefeated, and leads the American Hockey League in GAA and save percentage. He faced a Bridgeport team that had a 6-11-1-2 record which puts them at seventh in the AHL Atlantic Division.
There is an old axiom in sports that says “that’s why you play the games”, and Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime win for the underdog Islanders proved this to be so true.
The Comets got on the scoreboard early, when at just two minutes and forty-eight seconds into the game Nolan Foote fired a shot from the right circle past former New Jersey Devil and current Bridgeport Islander Cory Schneider to give Utica a 1-0 lead. The goal is Foote’s fourth of this season.
After the Foote goal, Bridgeport turned the pressure on themselves and got a couple of fantastic chances that Schmid turned aside. They finally broke through however with just over one minute left in the period when Richard Panik carried the puck down the right sideboards in the Comets zone, while defenseman Seth Helgeson pinched in to give the Islanders a numerical advantage. Panik’s shot off Schmid’s pads went right to Helgeson who put the puck in the back of the net to tie the game.
Bridgeport continued to put pressure on the Comets right from the start in the second period. It paid off with just under two minutes in when Simon Holmstrom scooped up a loose puck that was blocked on its way in from the point and put it through Schmid’s legs to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. They would control play for most of the period, with Schmid making several saves to keep the Comets in the game. Utica killed an extended five-on-three power play opportunity for Bridgeport to finish the second period and keep the score 2-1.
Schmid would once again keep his Comets in the game early in the third period when he stopped Cole Coskey on a breakaway to keep it a one-goal game. Even though Utica outshot Bridgeport 13-8 in the period, Schmid still had to make several other big saves besides the Coskey breakaway. The Comets opened up the offense in the third but the Islanders blocked several Utica shots, frustrating their attack. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, one shot the Islanders could not block went in the net, when defenseman Reilly Walsh ripped a wrist shot from the top of the left circle through a screen and past Schneider to tie the game at two. The Walsh goal ultimately sent the game to overtime.
The second overtime game of the season for the Utica Comets did not last long (they defeated the Providence Bruins on October 22nd in their first one). At just forty-three seconds into the overtime period, Richard Panik found himself all alone against Schmid who beat the Comets goaltender on the stick side to give Bridgeport a much-needed 3-2 overtime win.
Notes: Bridgeport outshot Utica 32-31…Utica was 0 for 1 on the power play, Bridgeport was 0 for 3…Nolan Foote (one goal and one assist) and Graeme Clarke (two assists) led all Comets scorers. Richard Panik (one goal and one assist) led the Islanders…This was Akira Schmid’s first loss of the season, although the Comets have still earned at least one point in all nine games he has played in this season…It was brother versus brother in this game as the Comets Tyler Wotherspoon faced his younger brother Parker Wotherspoon of the Islanders…Earlier in the day, the New Jersey Devils reassigned defenseman Colton White to the Utica Comets, although he did not play in this game…The Comets are scheduled to play again this Wednesday night in Rochester, which is also dealing with a Covid outbreak. There is no word yet as to whether this game will be postponed.