In the wake of two consecutive losses for the Comets– including a 2-1 loss to the Crunch just five days prior in the Frozen Dome Classic– Utica fans had extra reason to cheer last night as both teams faced off again at the Utica AUD. After amassing a 18-5 shot advantage in the scoreless first period, the Comets rocketed into the second to score a total of four goals– a tally which Syracuse eventually matched by scoring twice in the second and third periods respectively, only to be toppled in the final four minutes of the game.
“It’s alright,” insisted Syracuse fan Chad Hammond, shrugging off the loss as the arena of Comets fans continued to roar in celebration around him and his friends. “We won the game that matters, at least,” he joked, referring to Saturday’s historic game at the Syracuse University Carrier Dome, where a record-breaking crowd of 30,175 watched the Crunch eke out a victory over the league-leading Comets.
Even so, Utica’s enthusiasm didn’t appear to be too dampened by the defeat as the opportunity for revenge presented itself Wednesday night, with a sellout crowd turning up to watch the game despite poor driving conditions in the midst of yesterday’s heavy snowfall. This auspicious show of team spirit extended to the players on the ice, as well, as they displayed a markedly higher level of confidence and coordination than their performance last weekend, which saw much less passing between players in favor of a “dump and chase” style of playing.
“We just focussed on getting back to our game… it was a tough weekend for us, and I don’t think that we played bad on Saturday, but I think we were a lot sharper tonight,” said left winger Darren Archibald, whose two goals of the night, including the game-winner at 4:12, helped the team clinch their first win in three games. “We’ve been practicing hard since our last game, and we’ve just jelled since then.”
And jell they did– Utica started early and worked hard to maintain a huge shot advantage throughout the entire game, finishing with a total of 36 shots on goal. The Crunch were first to break the scoreless tie at 1:23 when left winger Yanni Gourde– who scored the game-winner on Saturday– tipped a rebound from Phillippe Paradis into the net, but their lead did not last long. The Comets were able to knot the score just four minutes later when DeFazio scored on a pass from Archibald, who then scored at 11:27 after he, DeFazio, and newcomer Will Acton forced a turnover.
The rest of the second period was largely dominated by Utica, who doubled their lead at 15:42 when Alexandre Grenier knocked a rebound from Alex Biega past the Crunch goaltender for power play goal. Syracuse retaliated just 27 seconds later when a slapshot from Paradis found the back of the net and closed the gap to 3-2, but Utica was equally quick at regaining their two-goal lead, coming back at 18:34 with another power play goal from left winger Ronalds Kenins.
Despite their late comeback in the third period, the Crunch were unable to tip the 4-4 tie in their favor after Archibald found his second goal of the night, and with Crunch goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy on the bench for the last two minutes of the game, the Comets were able to safeguard their victory until the final seconds ran out.
The Comets are set to play again at 7 p.m this Friday at the AUD, where they will go up against the Adirondack Flames for the third time this season. The Flames have won every game (nine total) since their 5-4 loss to the Comets at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Nov. 1.