UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A sold out Utica Memorial Auditorium started off with a boisterous crowd that loudly supported hockey’s return to the Mohawk Valley. The hometown Utica Comets fans went home without a win, as the Comets fell to the Albany Devils by a score of 4-1. Albany jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period and never looked back, as they finished three goals ahead, which spoiled the Comets (0-4-0-0) home opener.
Utica defenseman Frank Corrado netted the first home goal in Comets franchise history, but Devils forward Joe Whitney led all Devils scorers with three points (2-1-3) as the Devils remained unbeaten against the Comets on the season.
After a tight checking start to the game, the Devils (4-1-0-1) struck first to quiet The AUD. Joe Whitney put a backhander past goaltender Joe Cannata at the 7:47 mark off of assists from Dan Kelly and Scott Timmins. With the assist, Timmins extended his scoring streak to six games out of the gate. Whitney’s goal, his fourth of the season, vaulted him to tops on the Devils roster.
Albany doubled its lead just 26 seconds later as defenseman Jon Merrill scored his first of the season. Merrill’s goal, a power-play tally at the 8:13 mark, was buried off of a nice feed from Whitney who added his second point of the evening. Forward Reid Boucher also picked up an assist on the play.
With just 1.1 seconds left in the first period, The AUD’s sold-out crowd was treated to their first fight, as Darren Archibald and Mohawk Valley native, Tim Sestito, squared off, which sent a spark through the crowd as the teams skated to the locker rooms for intermission.
The Comets would try Devils netminder Keith Kinkaid several times throughout the second period, but Kinkaid stood strong between the pipes as he stopped all nine shots that came his way for a two period total of 14 saves.
Chris McKelvie extended the Comets’ deficit from two to three 9:14 into the third period, after he re-directed home a feed from Kelly Zajac.
Corrado gave the hometown crowd life with a power-play blast at the 13:12 mark of the third, when his shot from just above the right circle beat Kinkaid for the first time. Yann Sauve and Pascal Pelletier picked up assists on Corrado’s tally. With the helper, Pelletier extended his scoring streak to four games.
With Cannata pulled for the extra attacker, Whitney closed the door on any potential Comets comeback as he slid the puck into the empty net with just 32 seconds to play.
Cannata finished with 17 saves on 20 shots against as he fell to 0-2 on the season. Kinkaid picked up his second victory of the campaign, both of which came against Utica. The Farmingville, NY native made 22 saves on 23 shots against.
Several hockey personalities, including Mr. Hockey himself Gordie Howe, were on hand to witness the first AHL hockey contest in over 20 years. Howe, who dropped the ceremonial first puck, joined many members of the Vancouver Canucks brass and the Hanson Brothers from the hit comedy Slap Shot in welcoming the AHL back to the Utica.
With the loss, the Comets extended their winless drought to four to open the season. Utica will now look to breakthrough for their first win on Friday when the Syracuse Crunch make the trip down the Thruway for the first time. Puck drop is set for 7:00PM.