Last night the Comets again held on tight to their current status as the top team in the American Hockey League, edging the Hamilton Bulldogs in a 3-2 victory at The Utica Memorial Auditorium. Despite making an auspicious comeback in the third-period, the Bulldogs ultimately fell short as the Comets picked up their 12th win of the season, bringing their lead in the league up to 26 points out of a possible 30.
Right winger Nicklas Jensen was the breakout star of the night, scoring two of the Comets three goals, and bringing his season total up to six now. Jensen was recently reassigned to the Utica Comets after a three-game stint with the Canucks, during which he played less than a period of ice time in each game with no points to show for it. Utica fans are nonetheless more than happy to welcome back the young winger, whose performance in the minors this season helped contribute to the Comets early lead in the AHL, on top of his continuing success last night.
Alexandre Grenier opened the scoring for the Comets exactly midway through the first period, assisted by center Cal O’Reilly. Carrying O’Reilly’s rebound back into the offensive zone for a 2-on-1 scoring opportunity, Grenier took a low shot on goal that slotted the puck underneath Condon’s collapsed position by a narrow margin.
The Comets lost their lead just two and half minutes later when a powerful blue-line slapshot from Magnus Nygren deflected off of a player up front, taking goaltender Joacim Eriksson by surprise as it sailed into the net. The first period ended with the score knotted at 1-1, with the Comets having outshot the Bulldogs 12-7 in a trend that would continue throughout the game, eventually topping out at 30-21.
The second period started off with a hooking penalty to Bulldogs defenceman Joe Finley at 1:19, but it wasn’t until Finley incurred a second penalty at 11:56 that Utica was able to take advantage of having more men on the ice. Just one second after Finley stepped back into the game, Jensen caught a rebound from a blocked shot and sent it flying into the net, reclaiming a one-point lead over Hamilton.
Less than five minutes into the third period, Jensen extended the lead with his second goal of the night, rushing the goal to tip the puck past goaltender Mike Condon, who threw a leg out to stop the shot but once again couldn’t quite get low enough to make the save.
Although the Bulldogs ended up scoring the final goal of the night on a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity at 8:47, their chances to tie the game and go into overtime were countered time and time again by the Comet’s tireless defense. With about 20 seconds left on the clock and little chance of getting the puck past Hamilton to win by a higher margin, defenseman Frank Corrado simply opted for a game of keep-away by carrying the puck back into his own defensive zone, skating circles around the goal as fans thunderously counted down to zero.
The Comets are set to play again at 7 p.m this Friday in Rochester for their second game this season against the Americans, then again on Saturday against the Syracuse Crunch in the first ever ice hockey game to be played in the legendary Carrier Dome, located on Syracuse University’s campus.