UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Despite a gritty effort that earned the first standings point in franchise history, the Utica Comets fell 2-1 to the Syracuse Crunch in a shootout at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Goaltender Joacim Eriksson made 32 saves, as well as four more in the shootout, but the Comets fell just short and extended their winless streak to five games.
Benn Ferriero started the shootout on a positive note as the first Comets shooter roofed his attempt over Syracuse goaltender Cedric Desjardins. Eriksson was perfect on three straight, before he surrendered a goal to the Crunch’s Tanner Richard. Cedrick Paquette lost the puck on his attempt in round six, but it trickled through Eriksson’s five hole and won the game for Syracuse as Alex Biega could not convert to extend the shootout.
The Comets snagged their first lead in franchise history as Stuart re-directed Sauve’s shot from the point past Desjardins. With Syracuse’s Brett Connolly in the box on a hooking minor, the Comets were able to capitalize on the man-advantage as Stuart buried his second of the season. Dalpe also picked up an assist on the marker.
The Comets survived a scare late in the first as a Crunch shot snuck past Eriksson, but defenseman Peter Andersson sprawled across to prevent any damage and Utica was able to take their lead into the locker rooms.
The Crunch evened the score on a powerplay of their own 6:47 into the second period. Nikita Kucherov extended his team lead in goals with his sixth of the season after he buried a rebound off of a Matt Taormina point shot. Vladislav Namestnikov also recorded his fourth assist of the season on the goal.
Both goaltenders were sharp throughout the remainder of the second, with Eriksson robbing Kucherov of his second goal of the evening with a sprawling right pad save at the back door late in the period. Desjardins stopped all nine shots that came his way during the middle stanza.
A tense third period saw each team get their opportunities, but Eriksson and Desjardins both stood tall between the pipes. Overtime only flashed more of the same and neither team could convert despite up and down action. Eriksson came up with a point blank stop with the glove with just under three seconds to play to force the shootout.
The gloves came off early and often between these two budding rivals. Kelsey Wilson and Jean-Phillippe Cote scrapped in the first period, which set the tone for two more in the second. Kellan Lain took down Mike Angelidis drawing a huge roar from another animated crowd at The AUD. David Marshall and Tanner Richard also dropped the gloves late in the second period for the games third fight.
With his goal, Stuart takes over the active team lead in goals with two. Sauve is now second amongst active Comets with three points (0-3-3), trailing only Alexandre Grenier.
For the first time in franchise history, the Comets face opposition from Canadian soil, as they host the Hamilton Bulldogs tomorrow evening. The contest marks the third game of Utica’s six game homestand as the Comets and Bulldogs faceoff in the first ever meeting between the two teams. The Bulldogs defeated Rochester 4-3 tonight in an overtime contest of their own. Puck drop for tomorrow is set for 7 p.m.