Utica Comets fall to the Rochester Americans on Wednesday Night

Photo credit: AHLTV

Despite a valiant third period comeback, the Utica Comets lose back to back games in regulation for the first time this season.

The city of Rochester has not been very kind to the Utica Comets as of late, and Wednesday night was no different as the Comets lost to their North Division rival by a score of 7-6.

Before the puck was even dropped to start the game, they were shorthanded as they were forced to play with only ten forwards. That’s because regulars like Alexander Holtz, Graeme Clarke, Frederik Gauthier (who had scored in two straight games), and Brian Flynn were all out of the lineup for various reasons. Add in the fact that AJ Greer and Nolan Foote are still with the New Jersey Devils and it was certainly a different lineup from the one Comets fans are used to seeing.

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The Americans appeared determined to set the tone early, and they did just fifty-seven seconds into the game when Mason Jobst put a rebound off a shot by Oskari Laaksonen past Utica goaltender Mareks Mitens, who was making his seventh straight start in goal. Less than a minute later, the Americans Casey Fitzgerald, who had just been returned to Rochester from the Buffalo Sabres, sprung Matej Pekar on a breakaway on a pass from the neutral zone. Pekar made no mistake, going forehand then backhand to put the puck in the net and give Rochester an early 2-0 lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the Utica Comets at the 8:15 mark of the first period when defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk was assessed a five-minute major and thrown out of the game for a check to the head – a call coach Kevin Dineen vividly disagreed with. Just forty-four seconds after the penalty was assessed, the Americans struck again as Brandon Biro snapped a shot from the top of the left circle past a partially screened Mitens to give his team a commanding 3-0 lead.

It looked like the game might get out of hand early, but during that major penalty, Utica captain Ryan Schmelzer took control of the puck near the Rochester blue line and skated the puck in all alone on Americans goalie Mat Robson (himself just called up from the ECHL this morning) and beat him on the forehand to get the Comets on the scoreboard. Three minutes later after killing the rest of the major penalty, Utica’s Tyler Irvine tipped a shot from the right side by Michael Vukojevic past Robson to make the score 3-2. An Arttu Ruotsalainen in the closing minute gave Rochester a 4-2 lead heading into the first intermission.

Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Preview 01-12-2022

The second period belonged to the Americans and it started six and a half minutes in when Linus Weissbach tipped a Casey Fitzgerald point shot into the Utica net to make the score 5-2. Thirty-six seconds later Rochester lit the lamp again when team-leading scorer Michael Mersch found an alone, Mitch Eliot, on a pass from the left side of the Comets zone. Eliot snapped the puck over Mitens shoulder and the Amerks extended their lead to four goals.

Rochester kept pouring it on when just four and a half minutes later while on the powerplay when Jack Quinn blasted a one-timer off of an Oskari Laaksonen feed from the left circle past Mitens to give the Americans a five-goal lead. Utica answered back with about five and half minutes left in the period on a powerplay goal of their own by Robbie Russo to make the score 7-3 going into the third period.

Utica Comets Add Pair From the Adirondack Thunder

The third period would see the Comets battle back in a game that seemed lost for them after the first two periods. They outshot the Americans fourteen to five for the period, and their efforts paid off as at the 9:48 mark, Michael Vukojevic scored his first goal of the season when he tipped a Samuel Laberge pass in the high slot past Robson to give the Comets some life in the game. Utica kept battling and with just under six minutes left they made the score 7-5 on Buffalo native Ryan Schmelzer’s second goal of the game. Two minutes later, potential Canadian Olympian Tyler Wotherspoon notched his first goal of the season with a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot and the Comets found themselves within one goal of tying the game.

It wasn’t meant to be for Utica, as despite their efforts in the closing minutes, they could not get one more past Robson and fell to their in-state rival by a score of 7-6. With the win, the Americans pulled within the three points of the Comets in the North Division standings.

Notes: Utica outshot Rochester 29-28…Utica was 1 for 3 on the powerplay, Rochester was 3 for 6…Ryan Schmelzer (2 goals), Michael Vukojevic (1 goal, 1 assist), Tyler Irvine (1 goal, 1 assist), and Chase DeLeo (2 assists) led Utica scorers. DeLeo extended his point-scoring streak to six games…Jack Quinn (1 goal, 3 assists) and Oskari Laaksonen (4 assists) led Rochester scorers, Brandon Biro also had 1 goal and 2 assists…This is the fourth time in the last five games Utica has given up at least five goals…Utica’s next game is at home on Friday night, Rochester next plays on Friday night as well, at home against Belleville.

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