Comets' offense struggles in 2-1 loss at home
UTICA — In a duel between goalies at the top of their games Saturday night, the Toronto Marlies held on to earn a 2-1 win against the host Utica Comets.
"We didn't have any secondary opportunities," said Utica head coach Kevin Dineen after the loss. Just one day after the team scored five goals in a win, he said the team needs to be more consistent. "We didn't live up to our full potential. I think there's another level for us and there has to be more consistency to our game."
The matchup between the North Division teams was a scoreless affair until almost the mid-point. Toronto got the game's first goal 7:57 into the second period. Marshall Rifai scored his first goal of the season with a shot from the point that got through a screen in front of Utica goalie Nico Daws and found the back of the net off the post.
The Marlies added to the lead with what would prove to be the eventual game-winner off the stick of former Comet Adam Gaudette on a power play with just over seven minutes left in the contest. Gaudette played 16 games over parts of two seasons with Utica.
Tyce Thompson scored his second goal of the season to get the Comets back to within one on a power play with 4:41 left in the game. Thompson took a cross-ice feed to where he was stationed on the doorstep of Marlies goalie Dylan Ferguson. He sent the puck across the goal line on assists from Jack Dugan and Robbie Russo soon after the Comets pulled Daws to get a six-on-four advantage.
Dineen was pleased with Thompson's effort. He's a player who has been battling through some injuries in the past few seasons, the coach noted. "He was certainly one player who looked like he had some jump to him tonight."
The Comets' power play has struggled early in the season, going three-of-20 before Saturday's effort, where the unit scored on one of two opportunities.
"Our power play's been just OK," Dineen said. The unit and the team overall needs to "keep on being creative and find ways to generate offense."
"We had some good looks but we could have done a better job of getting to the net and getting pucks to the net," Thompson said. "I don't think we challenged him enough."
The Comets could not find the equalizer and the Marlies improved to 5-2-0-0, remaining atop the division.
"I like this team," Thompson added. "I like this group. I think we have a lot of potential here. I don't think we're playing bad by any means, I think just being more consistent every night will be the difference maker." And he said he's ready to help carry the load. "I want to be the guy to be leaned on. I want to score goals, make plays and create offense. But there's a lot of guys in this locker room that can do that. It's not just one man."
The team was without Andreas Johnsson, who had been recalled by the New Jersey Devils to address the absence of Ondrej Palat, who has been out of the lineup with an injury for about a week. Palat was put on injured reserve earlier in the day Saturday.
The Comets fall to 2-3-0-0.
Ferguson made 24 saves on 25 shots while Daws turned aside 23 of 25.
"Nico was very solid. Had some Grade A opportunities that he snuffed out," Dineen said.
The Comets host the Providence Bruins at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Bruins won the teams' first matchup of the season 2-1 at home on Oct. 22.
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