SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Utica Comets suffered a gut wrenching loss at the hands of their rivals, the Syracuse Crunch, 6-5 in overtime on Saturday evening at the War Memorial Syracuse. The Comets held a three goal lead late into the third period, but three Syracuse goals in a span of just 46 seconds sent the game to overtime, before Brett Connolly won it for the Crunch.
Alex Friesen led the Comets offensively with two goals an assist, while Jeremy Welsh (1-1-2), Cal O’Reilly (1-1-2) and Alex Biega (0-2-2) also had multi-point games for Utica. For the Crunch, Jonathan Marchessault had two goals, while Vlad Namestnikov had three points (1-2-3). Joacim Eriksson took the loss for the Comets, with 25 saves on 31 shots, while Kristers Gudlevskis was victorious with 20 saves for the home team.
Syracuse opened the scoring 7:16 into the first period, as Philippe Paradis snuck behind the Utica defense and beat Eriksson over the glove hand. The feed from Namestnikov sprung Paradis loose and the winger went backhand, forehand on the Utica netminder for his fifth goal of the season. Defenseman Joey Mormina also had an assist on the play.
The Comets evened things up with a power play goal from O’Reilly at the 12:26 mark of the opening period. A scrum in front caused a bouncing puck, which skittered to O’Reilly at the left point, who fired a slap shot past Gudlevskis. The goal was the fourth of the season for the Utica center, who moved into sole possession of third place on the Comets with his 37th point. Biega picked up the lone assist on the play, with a touch in front.
A power play the other way swung the lead back to the home side, as Yanni Gourde beat Eriksson with a slap shot of his own, this from the right point. Blue line partner Dmitry Korobov sent a cross-ice feed to Gourde, who settled and fired past Eriksson. Winger Jon DiSalvatore also collected an assist on the play, his 15th of the season.
Once again, the Comets evened things up, this in the form of the red hot Friesen at the 11:39 mark of the second. After a grinding shift in the offensive end, Friesen took the puck out of the corner and avoided two Syracuse defensemen, before he slotted a shot past Gudlevskis on the glove side. Kellan Lain picked up the lone assist on the play, Friesen’s fourth goal of the season.
Friesen did it again just under seven minutes later as he got on the end of a Biega rebound at the right post and put the rebound past Gudlevskis. The goal was the second of the night for Friesen, who now has 13 points over his past 13 games played. Center Jeremy Welsh also collected an assist on the play, which extended his scoring streak to five games.
The Comets expanded their lead to 4-2 at the 9:44 mark of the third period, courtesy of Patrick Kennedy’s first career AHL goal. The winger took a feed from O’Reilly on the right post and put it past Gudlevskis. The helper extended O’Reilly’s assist streak in away games to six games, while for Kennedy, it was his third point of the season in 33 games.
It appeared the rout was on for the visitors, as Jeremy Welsh scored just 65 seconds later to make it 5-2. After Friesen walked down the left wing and fired a slap shot that was shrugged off by Gudlevskis, Welsh was on hand in front to bury home the rebound and give the Comets a three goal lead. Friesen picked up his first career three-point game in the AHL with the helper. Defenseman Yann Sauve also had an assist on the play.
The Crunch, however, had other ideas about tonight’s ending as Namestnikov scored with 99 seconds on the clock to cut the Utica lead to 5-3. The Russian’s goal, off of assists from Paradis and Cedric Paquette, was his 18th of the season.
Things went from bad to worse for the Comets just 31 seconds later as Syracuse added another, this with the Crunch shorthanded. Jonathan Marchessault scored his first of the evening to cut the score to 5-4. Connolly and Gourde collected the assists.
Marchessault completed the comeback for the ages with 53 seconds left in the game as he sniped one past Eriksson from the slot. After the Crunch got the faceoff at center ice, the centerman took a feed from Paquette and used a lethal shot to knot the score at five. Captain Mike Angelidis also collected an assist on the play, his 18th of the campaign.
Overtime began with life for the Comets, as Pascal Pelletier rang one off the post, but it was not meant to be tonight for Utica. Connolly beat Eriksson through the five hole from the right hand circle to send the large contingent of Comets fans in the building home disappointed. Korobov and Nemestnikov collected the assist on the overtime winner.