Utica Comets Down Syracuse Crunch in North Division Battle

Photo Credit: AHLTV

Akira Schmid returns and Nolan Foote has a big night for the Utica Comets.

After squaring off in a home and home series last weekend where the teams split 4-3 overtime decisions, the Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch are poised to do it all over again this weekend. The first game took place on Friday night at the Upstate Medical University Arena in Syracuse and featured the return of Comets goaltender Akira Schmid.

Schmid had not played a game for Utica since being recalled to the New Jersey Devils on December 10th. When he left, the Comets were tearing up the American Hockey League with far and away the league’s best record. Upon his return to the crease on Friday night, the Comets found themselves reeling – having lost six of eight games since December 31st.

That all changed on Friday night, as Schmid turned in a thirty-four save performance and made several big stops to lead the Utica Comets to the 4-1 victory. Nolan Foote had the game-winning goal and an assist as well.

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The Comets opened the scoring just one minute and twenty-seven seconds into the game when Nick Rivera intercepted the puck coming off of the Utica bench and got it ahead to Aarne Talvitie. From the right half boards, Talvitie set up Alexander Holtz who blasted a one-timer past Syracuse goaltender Hugo Alnefelt. After that goal, the Crunch turned up the pressure but Schmid held them at bay and the Comets took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The franchise(s) history of the Utica Comets

The Crunch nearly tied the score about three minutes into the second period when Simon Ryfors was able to get a partial breakaway on Schmid just after a Comets powerplay expired, but Schmid turned his attempt aside. Four minutes after that, Utica was able to take advantage of a powerplay opportunity when a Reilly Walsh shot from the point came off the end boards right to Chase DeLeo. Alnefelt was able to deny DeLeo but the rebound went right to Nolan Foote who put the puck in the back of the net to give the Comets a 2-0 lead.

With just under four minutes left in the second period, the Comets took a commanding 3-0 lead when Foote fed a backhand pass from the right circle to Fabian Zetterlund in the slot. Zetterlund went to his forehand and snapped the puck by Alnefelt to put Utica firmly in control after forty minutes of play.

Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx decided to shake things up to start the third period and replaced Alnefelt with Max Legace in the Crunch crease. A scary scene unfolded with just over five minutes gone in the period, when during a fight between Utica’s Nick Rivera and Syracuse’s Shawn Element, Rivera appeared to hit his helmetless head on the ice causing him to begin bleeding profusely. Rivera was able to leave the ice under his own power, but did not return to the game.

Desperate to get on the scoreboard, Syracuse pulled Legace with seven minutes left in the game. they were able to get constant pressure for ove two minutes, but it was the Comets who would score as nate Schnarr fired a shot into the open Crunch goal from the neutral zone to make it 4-0. Syracuse did manage to spoil Schmid’s shutout bid with two minutes and fourteen seconds left on a Sean Day goal from the top of the left circle, but that was all they would get and the Comets skated away with a 4-1 victory. With the win, the Comets lead the Crunch five games to one in the Empire Recycling Galaxy Cup Series.

Notes: Syracuse outshot Utica 35 to 23…Utica was 1 for 2 on the powerplay, Syracuse was 0 for 1…Alexander Holtz has points in the last five games he has played for the Comets, and has a goal in two straight games…With a goal and assist tonight, Nolan Foote has at least one point in four straight games – he led all Utica scorers in this game…Utica and Syracuse play again on Saturday night at the Adirondack Bank Center, start time is 7:00pm EST.

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