UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica Comets put together one of their finest efforts of the season on home ice and defeated the Syracuse Crunch by a 3-1 score in front of a sold-out Utica Memorial Auditorium on Friday night. The win gave the Comets their fifth win over their past six games.
On ‘Pink The Rink’ night at The AUD, 3,815 hockey fans packed the building as the Crunch traveled down the Thruway for the second meeting of the season with the Comets. Brandon DeFazio, Pascal Pelletier and Darren Archibald each scored for Utica, who moved to 16-20-2-4 on the season. Joacim Eriksson, who was just 65 seconds away from his fourth career AHL shutout, made 31 saves on 32 shots for the victory.
The Comets and Crunch played to a scoreless first period, with Syracuse ahead 10-7 in shots on goal. The Comets had the period’s best chance as Pascal Pelletier found a rebound in the slot, but his backhanded attempt was turned aside by Syracuse netminder Cedric Desjardins to keep the game scoreless.
Utica struck first just 3:24 into the second period as Brandon DeFazio put a silky smooth feed from Cal O’Reilly past Desjardins to open the scoring. DeFazio’s goal was his sixth of the season, while O’Reilly picked up his fifteenth helper, third most on the Comets this season.
Pelletier doubled the advantage for Utica just over ten minutes later as he went backhand, forehand on Desjardins and slid the finish past the Syracuse netminder’s stick side. With the goal, Pelletier moved to within two of the 500-point mark for his professional career. Wingers Alexandre Grenier and Darren Archibald picked up assists on the play.
Utica added an insurance goal with just over five minutes to play in the game, as Archibald drove the net and deflected Grenier’s rebound past Desjardins. Pelletier moved back to a point-per-game pace with the secondary assist on the play. With his second helper of the evening, Grenier is now tied for seventh in the AHL amongst all first year players with 29 points (15-14-29).
The Crunch peppered Eriksson with shots down the stretch and were finally able to end the Swede’s shutout bid with just 1:05 to play in the game. Defenseman Andrej Sustr slotted one past Eriksson, his first goal of the season, off of assists from Panik and Connolly. The helper was a team high eighteenth for Connolly, who is an AHL All-Star.
With the victory, Joacim Eriksson has moved to 12-10-1-2 on the season. Eriksson has been victorious in eight of his past ten starts and has moved into the AHL’s Top 20 with a .915 save percentage. Defenseman Peter Andersson continued his team with another positive outing. The blueliner has netted a plus rating in each of his past six games and currently leads the team with a +9 rating this season. Despite two shots on net, winger Benn Ferriero saw his point scoring streak end at nine games.
Utica is back in action as they faceoff with the Rockford IceHogs for the first time in franchise history, tomorrow evening in the Mohawk Valley. The Comets are already nearing back-to-back sellouts for the second time this season. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.