The Utica Comets got a hat trick from AJ Greer on Wednesday night, but were utimately could not overcome the Amerks.
Since returning to the Utica Comets from the New Jersey Devils, AJ Greer has been on an absolute tear. In his first game back on Monday night against the Hartford Wolfpack, Greer scored a goal and posted three assists. On Wednesday night, Greer moved into second place on the Comets team scoring list by scoring all three goals in Utica’s 4-3 loss to the Rochester Americans.
The Comets got off to a great start in Wednesday night’s game when they scored the first goal of the contest about halfway into the opening period. While on the power play, Ryan Schmelzer sent a centering pass from behind the goal line on the left side of the Rochester net. The pass made it all the way through to the top of the right circle where AJ Greer was waiting to blast a slap shot past Americans goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to score the only goal of the period.
After a first period that featured only ten shots between the two teams (six for Utica, four for Rochester), the action picked up in the second period. The Comets opened the scoring at one minute and twenty-eight seconds after the opening faceoff when while killing a penalty Frederik Gauthier carried the puck down the left side of the Rochester zone, held on to the puck long enough to get around a sliding Ethan Prow, and slid a centering pass to Greer who re-directed the past Luukkonen to give Utica a 2-0 lead. After giving up the shorthanded goal, Rochester came right back and scored on the same power play when Michael Mersch picked up a loose puck in front of the Utica crease and snapped a shot past Comets goaltender Akira Schmid to get his team within one.
Just over two minutes later, the Americans tied the game when former Utica Comet Josh Teves sent a cross-ice pass from the left point of the Utica zone to the right point, where Jimmy Schuldt blasted a one-timer that eluded a partially screened Schmid for his fourth goal of the season. With just over six minutes left in the second period, Mersch scored his second goal of the game when he re-directed a give-and-go pass from Mark Jankowski into the Utica net to give Rochester a 3-2 lead they would take into the second intermission.
The Comets closed the second-period putting pressure on Luukkonen and continued that trend in the third, but the young goaltender was in fine form and stopped everything the visiting team threw at him. By halfway through the third period, the Comets had outshot the Americans by a margin of 8-1. They then took a tripping penalty, that the home team took full advantage of. Rochester rookie scoring sensation Jack Quinn picked up a loose puck at the Utica blue line, skated it to the right circle, and ripped a laser of a wrist shot past Schmid to make the score 4-2.
The Comets have had a penchant for comebacks this season (leading some to dub them the “cardiac Comets”), and they almost did it again on Wednesday night. With thirty-eight seconds left in the game, a loose puck came all the way out to the top of the left circle, wherein an almost carbon copy of his first goal, AJ Greer blasted a slap shot into the Rochester net to make the score 4-3. The comeback would stop there however as the Americans would yield no more shots and come away with a victory they very much needed for their push to make the AHL playoffs.