UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica Comets continue to roll as they picked up their third straight victory with a 2-1 shootout decision over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in front of a sold-out Utica Memorial Auditorium on Friday evening.
3,815 ravenous Comets fans were on hand for Irish Night at The AUD, as the Comets pulled off their second third period comeback of the season, this in dramatic fashion.
Brandon DeFazio was Utica's lone goalscorer in regulation, as the grizzly winger tied the score for the Comets with just 7.7 seconds on the clock in the third period. Joacim Eriksson stole the show once again, with a 32 save effort during the 65 minutes of play, in addition to five stops on as many shots during the shootout.
Neither team was able to find the scoreboard during the first period, as Eriksson led the charge with nine saves on nine shots. Yann Sauve had Utica's most dangerous opportunity of the stanza, with a blast from the left point that went narrowly wide of the post. Penguin netminder Peter Mannin turned aside each of the five Comet shots he saw during the period, to keep the game scoreless.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opened the scoring just 1:12 into the second period, as Spencer Machacek drove to the net and banged his 16th of the season past Eriksson. The goal was the seventh over Machacek's past ten games played. Jayson Megna and Andrew Ebbett had the assists on the game's opening tally, the 15th helper in 30 games this season for Ebbett.
Fights characterized the second period, as both Guy Lepine and Alex Mallet dropped the gloves for Utica, marking the first time since Jan. 3 against Rochester that Utica has had multiple fights in a period. Lepine and notorious AHL scrapper Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond dropped the gloves just 2:29 in, the third fight in just six games this season for Lepine. Mallet and Penguin winger Bobby Farnham also went at it later in the period, with the pair dropping the mitts directly after they exited the penalty box, where they served matching unsportsmanlike conduct minors. Mallet came out on top in a decisive victory.
For just the second time this season, the Comets came from behind in the third period and what an exhilarating finish it was. DeFazio found a loose puck in front of the net and squeezed it past Mannino to knot the score at one just 7.7 seconds from the final buzzer. Captain Colin Stuart and center Cal O'Reilly picked up the assists for the Comets, the fourth straight game with an assist for O'Reilly.
After a scoreless overtime period, it came down to a shootout for the second straight game for Utica. Eriksson and Mannino were perfect through four and a half rounds, through a combination of missed shots, posts and saves and it all came down to O'Reilly, who beat Mannino on the game's final shot to secure two points for the Comets.
With the victory, Eriksson improved to 19-15-2-2 on the season, with a .916 save percentage and a 2.49 goals against average. The Galve, Sweden native has compiled a .937 save percentage over his past eight starts and improved to a .750 save percentage on shootouts this season, with his perfect five-for-five evening.
The Comets take to the road tomorrow evening, for their final tilt this season with the Binghamton Senators. Utica will see a familiar foe in Patrick Mullen, who was traded from Vancouver to the Ottawa organization during Deadline Day on Wednesday. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. from the Broome County Veterans Arena.