Utica Comets lose their second straight overtime game

Not only did the Utica Comets lose to the Rochester Americans 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday night, they may have lost goaltender Nico Daws as well.

The Utica Comets suddenly find themselves facing a little bit of adversity.

In losing to the Rochester Americans at the Blue Cross Arena on Wednesday night, the Comets have now lost two straight games for the first time all season. This was bound to happen at some point, but star goaltender Nico Daws had to leave the game due to an injury after a collision in his crease during the third period. It’s safe to say, this was certainly not expected for the team that entered this game with the AHL’s best record.

Coming into the game, it looked like the Comets could have a distinct advantage over their rivals from western New York. That’s because the Americans would be without their normal starting goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who has been recalled to the Amerks parent club the Buffalo Sabres. He would be replaced in goal by Mat Robson, who was just recalled by the club from Cincinnatti of the ECHL. Then, a pregame announcement that Rochester leading scorer Jack Quinn would miss the contest due to a non-covid illness had to have the Comets feeling good about their chances.

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It showed early in the game, as the Utica Comets came out flying. They tested Robson early and often with a robust welcome back to the American Hockey League (he played for the Iowa Wild in the 2019-20 season). At the 5:47 mark of the first period, the pressure by the Comets would pay off as Nate Schnarr took control of a blocked Reilly Walsh shot behind the net who then, in turn, passed to Marian Studenic who was left alone in front of the net. Studenic snapped a shot past Robson to give Utica a 1-0 lead and it looked like they were off and running.

After the Studenic goal, the Comets continued to attack the Rochester zone, but Robson stood tall and was able to get his team to the locker room down by just the one goal going into the intermission.

A look at the Utica Comets overall underlying numbers so far

In the early going of the second period, it was the Americans who would put some pressure on the Comets, but Daws was able to keep them at bay. This would lead to Utica’s second goal of the night when Aarne Talvitie created a turnover by hounding former Comet Josh Teves into turning the puck over in the neutral zone. Talvitie then carried the puck into the Rochester zone on the left side and slid the puck to Chase DeLeo in the slot who buried the goal to give his team a 2-0 lead. With the goal, DeLeo earned his team-leading fifteenth point on the season.

Just after the goal, Nico Daws appeared to be shaken up by a shot up high but stayed in the game. It was unfortunately a harbinger of things to come.

The Americans would not go away however and countered with just six minutes left in the second period they would finally beat Daws to get on the scoreboard. Sean Malone sent a pass across the Utica zone to a wide-open Mattias Samuelsson who blasted a one-timer into the net to get the Americans within one goal. It was Samuelsson’s first goal of the year and gave Rochester some much-needed momentum heading into the second intermission.

Defenseman Reilly Walsh excelling for the Utica Comets

It would take Rochester only twenty-three seconds into the third period to tie the game at two. Samuelsson picked up his second point of the night when he found Americans captain Michael Mersch on the right side of the Utica crease who put the puck into the wide-open net. The Comets answered a little over four minutes later when AJ Greer sent a pass from the left side of the Rochester zone to Fabian Zetterlund, who was streaking into the slot. Zetterlund took the pass and went forehand/backhand and lifted the puck over Robson and into the net to give the Comets a 3-2 lead.

Minutes after the Zetterlund goal, a collision in the crease would end Nico Daws’s night. Rochester’s Arttu Ruotsalainen got in on a partial breakaway which resulted in the collision that would cause Daws to immediately grab his right leg in obvious pain. He was helped off of the ice without putting any weight on the injured leg and replaced by backup Akira Schmid. As of this writing, there is no official word on Daws’s condition.

With eight minutes and seventeen seconds left, a Colton White tripping penalty would prove costly for the Comets. While on the power play, Sean Malone took a feed from the point by Oskari Laaksonen and then beat a screened Schmid on the backhand to tie the game at three. The score remained 3-3 after sixty minutes of play to force overtime.

After exchanging chances in the overtime period, Rochester would be awarded a four-on-three power play with one minute and fifteen seconds left when Utica’s Brian Flynn took a double-minor high sticking penalty. With forty-three seconds left in the game, the Americans cashed in when rookie sensation Peyton Krebs fired a one-timer past Schmid off of a feed from Malone to win the game.

Notes: Utica outshot Rochester by a margin of 35 to 28…Utica was 0 for 2 on the power play, Rochester was 2 for 2…Reilly Walsh led in points with two (both were assists), Sean Malone and Peyton Krebs led Rochester in scoring with three points each (both had one goal and two assists)…With his two assists, Reilly Walsh extends his point-scoring streak to three games…Utica’s next game is at home on Friday night against the Cleveland Monsters, Rochester’s next game is at home on Friday night against the Laval Rocket…Despite the loss, the Comets still have the best record in the American Hockey League at 16-1-2-0.

Episode #54 of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast features a very entertaining interview with Utica College Pioneers men’s hockey team Head Coach Gary Heenan.

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