The Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch had an offensive slugfest on Friday night, with the Comets coming out on top.
It was another memorable battle on Friday night between the Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch at the Upstate Medical University Arena. The team’s last meeting was on February 26th, with the Crunch defeating the Comets by a score of 6-3. This time, Utica avenged that loss by sending their closest geographical rival down in defeat by a score of 8-5.
The Comets got on the board first right after they killed a Tyler Wotherspoon slashing penalty. AJ Greer swept a backhand pass to Frederik Gauthier from just over the Syracuse blue line who snapped a shot past Syracuse starting goaltender Hugo Alnefelt to give the Comets a 1-0 lead. The Crunch tied it just one minute and twenty-four seconds later, when their leading scorer, Gabriel Dumont, sent a pass from behind the Utica net to Gage Concalves who beat Akira Schmid from the top of the Comets crease.
It didn’t stay tied for long, as fifty-seven seconds later, Graeme Clarke jumped on an errant Syracuse pass in front of their own net. After his first shot on the backhand was stopped, he snapped the rebound from a sharp angle into the net past a down and out Alnefelt. A minute later, the Comets made it 3-1 when Nolan Foote sent a hard pass to Brian Flynn who was waiting on the left side of the Syracuse crease. Flynn tucked the puck into the net, and Alnefelt’s night was over as Crunch coach Benoit Groulx replaced him with Max Legace.
The Crunch opened the scoring in the second period just over two minutes in when a rebound from a Sean Day point shot was scooped up by Remi Elie who deposited the puck in the Utica net. Just under two minutes later, the Comets regained their two-goal lead when Alexander Holtz found a loose puck at the bottom of the right circle and snapped a laser into the top of the Syracuse net. The Crunch, however, showed resiliency and at the 8:27 mark, Alex Barre-Boulet carried the puck over the Utica blue line, curled, and sent a pass to Charles Hudon who fired a shot past Schmid from the high slot to make the score 4-3.
The scoring wasn’t over in what proved to be a wild second period. With six and a half minutes left, The Comets got their only power-play goal of the game, when Robbie Russo sent a pass from the point to the left circle for Fabian Zetterlund, who hammered a one-timer past Legace. With just over one minute remaining in the period, Kevin Bahl sent a point to point pass over to Michael Vukojevic, who blasted a one-timer from the right point through traffic and into the Syracuse net to put the Comets up by a score of 6-3 at the close of the second period.
A determined Syracuse Crunch team peppered Schmid with twelve shots through the first half of the third period and ended up with twenty-three for the entire period. With just over seven minutes remaining, the Crunch would get a power-play when Nolan Foote took a tripping penalty. In a desperate attempt to get a goal, Syracuse pulled Legace for a six on four advantage and it worked, as Hudon notched his second goal of the game off a rebound from a Barre-Boulet shot to make the score 6-4.
With Legace on the bench, Nolan Foote scored an empty-net goal with two minutes and thirty-three seconds left to give the Comets a three-goal lead. Nothing is ever easy in a Utica Comets/Syracuse Crunch game, and the Crunch scored just six seconds after the Foote goal when Antoine Morand won the ensuing faceoff burst through the zone and scored after making heavy contact with Schmid. The goal was disputed by the Comets to no avail, but it did not matter as thirty-nine seconds later AJ Greer scored an empty-net goal to salt the game away and give Utica the 8-5 victory.
Notes: Syracuse outshot Utica 42-27…Syracuse was 1 for 3 on the power-play, Utica was 1 for 2…Brian Flynn led all Utica scorers with three points (one goal and two assists), AJ Greer, Nolan Foote, and Frederik Gauthier each had one goal and one assist…Charles Hudon (two goals), Sean Day, and Alex Barre-Boulet (two assists each) led all Syracuse scorers…Utica now leads the season series seven games to two…The teams play again on Saturday at the Upstate Medical University Arena in Syracuse, start time is 7:00 pm EST.