The Comets wasted no time Friday night in avenging their previous 3-0 loss to The Wolves, deftly netting the first goal of the night a mere 32 seconds into the game after right winger Brandon DeFazio (1-1-0) was hooked on a breakaway and converted the resulting penalty shot. The early start proved to be just the impetus Utica needed to retaliate with some of the energy and passion that seemed to be absent from their lackluster effort last Wednesday, and the sold-out crowd at The Utica Memorial Auditorium responded accordingly to the sudden show of fire on the ice.
Head Coach Travis Green noted the change in atmosphere during the Comets’ second face-off with the Wolves this week, saying, “we didn’t change the way we play… but there was definitely more emotion in the way we played, and I think it was that first penalty shot that really greased the goal for us…” Despite an arguably equal show of talent from The Wolves (9-3-2-0), who continued to keep Utica defense on their toes by rallying twice from deficits, it was the Comets’ passionate performance that ultimately stole the night in a 4-3 victory – their 11th win of the season.
The start of the second period saw Chicago briefly knotting the score when forward Pat Cannone cleaned up the rebound from a hard shot on goal made by defenseman Chris Butler, but Utica was quick to regain the lead. At 9:29 left winger Hunter Shinkaruk (2-0-1) snapped a shot over the shoulder of veteran goaltender Matt Climie (5-2-1) to break the tie at 2-1, with assists by DeFazio and center Cal O’Reilly (0-2-2). The Comets extended their lead less than three minutes later when right winger Alexandre Grenier buried a rebound from in close, with a secondary assist by O’Reilly. The power-play goal came at 11:56 and brought the score up to 3-1 at the end of the second period.
The Wolves made an impressive comeback in the third period, first at 5:05 with a well-executed series of passes that set Petteri Lindbohm up with a clean shot on Markstrom, followed by another goal at the 11:50 mark when Ty Rattie (Chicago’s leading scorer) redirected defenseman Brent Sopel’s shot on goal to make it a 3-3 game. With the score tied and less than fifteen minutes remaining on the clock, it seemed possible that The Chicago Wolves, with their impressive puck-passing chops on full display and their confidence still buoyed by the recent trouncing of their league-leading opponent, could go on to complete a two-game sweep.
Toward the end, there were several tense minutes that saw a succession of narrowly thwarted shots and saves, and it looked as though it could still be anybody’s game– until 3:38, when Shinkaruk was again broke the tie. With a powerful dump from the blue line, the puck bounced awkwardly over yards of open ice to sail right over Climie’s glove and into the net, giving the Comets’ their winning goal, and ending the game on the same note of excitement and unpredictability that it began.
Next Wednesday, Nov. 19 the Comets will be facing the Hamilton Bulldogs for the first time this season at The AUD.