Utica Comets Stunned by Lehigh Valley in Overtime

Former Utica Comets captain Cal O’Reilly does his old team in.

When the Utica Comets last played the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on October 30th, they scored five goals and were able to pick up the victory. The two teams met again on Friday evening at the Adirondack Bank Center and the Comets once again scored five goals – but this time it wasn’t enough.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms overcame a 5-1 third period deficit to defeat the Comets 6-5 in overtime. The man who capped the comeback for the Phantoms and put a damper on New Year’s Eve celebrations for Utica fans was none other than former Comets and current Phantoms captain Cal O’Reilly.

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For the first two periods, it looked like the game could become a Comets blowout victory. Chase DeLeo got Utica on the board just two minutes and fifty-five seconds into the game when Chase DeLeo was sent in all alone and scored after Brian Flynn chipped the puck to him in the slot. Three and a half minutes later, defenseman Colton White got his first goal of the season for the Comets when his wristshot from the point off of a feed from Michael Vukojevic eluded Phantoms starting goaltender Pat Nagle to make it 2-0. chase DeLeo then capped off a three goal first period for Utica when he beat Nagle with a wristshot from the top of the faceoff circles to send the home team into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead.

Chase DeLeo of the Utica Comets beats Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Pat Nagle for the first goal of the game. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

The Utica Comets extended their lead to four goals just five minutes into the second period when Fabian Zetterlund blocked a clearing attempt at the Lehigh Valley blueline. After keeping the puck in the zone, the twenty-two-year-old native of Sweden swept the puck over to White who was waiting at the left point. White then snapped a shot past a partially screened Nagle for his second goal of the game to make it 4-0, and it looked like the New Year’s Eve party in Utica was starting early.

Just over a minute after White’s second goal, the Phantoms answered back. Defenseman Logan Day scooped up a loose puck and ripped a wristshot past Comets goaltender Marek Mitens. Utica responded with Frederik Gauthier’s first goal of the season when Graeme Clarke made a beauty of a pass from the right half wall to Gauthier who found the back of the net making the score 5-1.

The Utica Comets have a gem in Fabian Zetterlund

Right after the Gauthier goal, the momementum shifted to Lehigh Valley. It started with a power play they awarded after Utica’s Michael Vukojevic took a slashing penalty – they didn’t score but they had several good chances. The Phantoms drew two more penalties in the period, and although they didnt score on either of those opportunites, they did light the lame behind Mitens again. Left Wing Issac Ratcliffe tipped a shot from the point by Egor Zamula into the Comets net to make the score 5-2 and give Lehigh Valley a boost going into the second intermission.

Utica Comets goaltender Marek Mitens makes a save in the first period of Friday evenings game. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

That boost paid immediate divendends in the third period, as it took the Phantoms only thirty-nine seconds from the opening faceoff to score. An unfortuante bounce for Utica defenseman Reilly Walsh off of his stick in his zone when right to O’Reilly who fed Hayden Hodgson who beat Mitens to make it 5-3. Four minutes later, current Phantoms leading scorer Garrett Wilson redirected a shot Zamula between Mitens legs to make it a one goal game, and in the process causing the home crowd to start getting restless.

The Comets would mount an attack of their own in the third period, including a grade A chance for Fabian Zetterlund that was denied by Nagle. It looked like the Comets would hang on as the Phantoms pulled their goalie with a minute and a half remaining, but with thirty-five seconds left the O’Reilly/Hodgson duo struck again – as O’Reilly sent a cross ice pass to Hodgson who blasted a one-timer into the Utica net to send the game to ovetime.

Lehigh Valley, whose NHL parent club is the Philadelphia Flyers, controlled play for most of the overtime, as Utica did not get a single shot on goal. The Phantoms made their second shot of the ovetime count as with just 1:01 left, O’Reilly broke his former teams heart by scoring the game winning goal on an assist from Hayden Hodgson. O’Reilly was named the number one star of the game (for which he was given a nice ovation by the crowd), and the Phantoms wound up having a better bus ride home than they thought they would.

Notes: Utica outshot Lehigh Valley 34-30…Utica was 0 for 2 on the power play, Lehigh Valley was 0 for 3…Hayden Hodgson (two goals,one assist) and Cal O’Reilly (one goal, two assists) led the Phantoms in scoring with three points each, Chase DeLeo and Colton White (two goals each) led the Comets in scoring…Tyler Irvine, who made his Comets debut in the game, had one assist…After the game it was announced Nolan Foote and Alexander Holtz would be assigned to the New Jersey Devils Taxi Squad and Irvine along with Samuel Laberge would be assigned back to Adirondack of the ECHL…The Phantoms next game is at home on January 1st against Bridgeport, the Comets next game is on the road against Toronto on January 5th…Despite the loss to Lehigh Valley, the Comets still

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