ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Mohawk Valley officially welcomed hockey back as the Utica Comets defeated the Adirondack Phantoms 4-2 in an exhibition game held in front of a sold out crowd at John F. Kennedy Arena in Rome. Alex Friesen (2-0-2) and Colin Stuart (1-1-2) led the way with two points each, to give the Utica Comets their first preseason win in franchise history in front of a 1,218 fans.
All proceeds from the game were donated to the John F. Kennedy Arena to benefit all the programs that call the arena home. The Comets will make their Utica debut on Wednesday, Oct. 23, against the Rochester Americans, in the franchise's home opener.
The Comets put together a strong first period and jumped out to a 2-0 lead 11:29 into the game. The scoring started at 2:44 when a Mitch Elliot pass sent Friesen in on a breakaway with a long stretch pass from the Comets defensive zone. Then, just past the halfway point of the period, Friesen scored his second goal of the game on a rebound from a shot by Alex Mallet. The Comets ended the period with a 10-8 shot advantage.
Adirondack got off to a fast start in the second period and scored just 23 seconds into the period on Michael Raffl's first goal of the game. Petr Straka forced a turnover deep in the Comets zone and found Raffl all alone in front of the net, who beat Cannata's left pad for the Phantoms first tally of the game. With 9:01 to play in the second period, Colgate graduate Kurtis Bartliff took the feed from Colin Stuart and tucked away what would be the game-winning goal, and extended the Utica lead to 3-1. Just a few minutes later, Raffl scored his second goal of the game, as he slammed home a Petr Straka rebound.
The 3-2 score stood up through most of the third period until Stuart wrapped things up with 15 seconds to play with an empty net goal.
Adirondack finished the game with a 28-25 advantage in shots. Neither team scored on the power play, as the Comets went 0-for-2 and Adirondack was 0-for-3. Cannata went the distance with 26 saves for the Comets, while Yann Danis turned away 21 shots against.
The Comets and Phantoms will face-off four times this season, starting when the Comets visit the Phantoms at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Dec. 7.
The Comets finish up their preseason schedule on Thursday, Oct. 3 vs the Hamilton Bulldogs, at 7 p.m. The first regular season game will take place on Oct. 11 with a match-up against the Americans in Rochester at 7 p.m.