The Utica Comets roll to a 5-1 victory behind big nights from Kevin Bahl, Joe Gambardella, Aj Greer, and Akira Schmid.
The Utica Comets got into the groove early in their Saturday night game against the Springfield Thunderbirds and stayed there for the rest of the game.
Defenseman Kevin Bahl opened the scoring just thirty-eight seconds into the game. AJ Greer, who has made a huge impact since returning to the Comets from the New Jersey Devils, took control of the puck along the left side of the Springfield zone and dished the puck to Bahl who was waiting at the point. Bahl then unleashed a slapshot that beat former Comet and current Springfield goaltender Joel Hofer to give Utica an early 1-0 lead.
The Comets controlled play for most of the period which led to them lighting the lamp again with just under three minutes left in the frame with Kevin Bahl being involved again. This time his shot from the point was stopped by Hofer but he left a rebound on the left side of his crease that Brian Flynn put home to give Utica a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission
For the ninth game in a row, the Comets were outshot in the second period (and twelfth in the past thirteen), but it was Utica that did most of the scoring. At the 5:06 mark. Fabian Zetterlund made a slick move in the left side of the Springfield zone and feathered a cross-ice pass to Aarne Talvitie who scored his third goal in six games off of a one-timer from the right circle. Three minutes later, the red-hot Joe Gambardella got on the board when a rebound off the end boards from Reilly Walsh’s point shot came right to him for a backhand shot to put the Comets up 4-0.
After the Gambardella goal, a pair of consecutive minor penalties by Jeremy Groleau would enable Springfield to use their top five powerplay unit to build some momentum. They capitalized on the second penalty, as former Comet Nathan Walker (four games played in Utica during the 2020-21 season) put rebound off of a shot by another former Comet Sam Anas past Akira Schmid to get the Thunderbirds on the scoreboard. Springfield continued to put the pressure on after the Walker goal, but could not get any more goals and the second period ended with Utica leading by a score of 4-1.
The Thunderbirds turned up the pressure in the third period but Schmid made several big saves to hold them at bay. With just under six minutes to go, Springfield coach Drew Bannister took a gamble and pulled Hofer in a desperate attempt to cut into Utica’s three-goal lead. It backfired, as Alexander Holtz threaded a pass through the neutral zone to AJ Greer, who was waiting at the Springfield blue line. Greer skated in unabated and deposited the puck into the empty net for the game’s final goal and the Comets earned a dominating 5-1 victory.
Notes: Springfield outshot Utica 30 to 28…Springfield was 1 for 4 on the powerplay, Utica was 0 for 1…The Comets played the game without regulars Chase DeLeo, Ryan Schmelzer, and Nikita Okhotiuk. Colton White was recalled to the New Jersey Devils and Joe Masonius was recalled by the Comets from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL…AJ Greer has a six-game point streak going, Joe Gambardella’s point streak is at five games, Alexander Holtz has at least one point in four straight games, and Frederik Gauthier has an active three-game point streak…Kevin Bahl led Utica scorers with three points (one goal and two assists), while Joe Gambardella and AJ Greer (one goal and one assist), and Reilly Walsh (two assists) each had two points. Springfield had three players with one point each. Springfield and Utica meet again for a re-match in Springfield on Wednesday night.