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Utica Comets recover vs. Syracuse to extend point-streak to five games

Steve Jones
Sports writer
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Posted 3/5/23

The Utica Comets trailed by two goals after a period in Sunday's home game against the rival Syracuse Crunch but rallied to win 6-4 and extend the team's point streak to five games.

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Utica Comets recover vs. Syracuse to extend point-streak to five games


UTICA — The Utica Comets trailed by two goals after a period in Sunday's home game against the rival Syracuse Crunch but rallied to win 6-4 and extend the team's point streak to five games.

The Comets hosted the North Division foe in a rare matinee. Going in, the team had a four-game point streak (3-0-1-0) and sat one point behind the Crunch in third place in the division.

The start of the game didn't bode well for extending that streak. Though the Comets struck first, the Crunch scored the next three before intermission.

In his first game back in action after being out for almost two weeks with an injury, Alexander Holtz gave the Comets a 1-0 lead 5:25 into the game. He created little space for himself in the right faceoff circle and snapped off a shot that beat Hugo Alnefelt at the near post. It was his third goal in six games with Utica this season. Assists went to Reilly Walsh, his 22nd, and Brian Halonen, his 11th.

Syracuse scored twice in 56 seconds to take a 2-1 led in the middle of the first. First it was Alex Barré-Boulet then Lucas Edmonds beating Isaac Poulter, who was making his second consecutive start. Utica goalie Nico Daws was sidelined this weekend with an illness.

The Crunch built a two-goal lead when Edmonds created a turnover in his defensive zone and got out on a semi-breakaway, finishing the play for his second goal of the game with 2:09 left in the opening period.

With the help of two Comets each getting their first goal with the club, Utica climbed back into the game over the course of the second period.

First it was Halonen scoring his 14th of the season when he took a pass in the slot and with plenty of space to work fired a wrist shot into goal to cut the lead back to two. Jack Dugan got his 16th assist and Walsh collected his second of the night.

Trevor Carrick got the goal back at the mid-point of regulation when his shot from the point got through traffic and into the back of the net.

Then the Comets struck twice before the end of the period to get the game tied 4-4. Xavier Parent scored his first as a Comet and first in the AHL with a wrist shot from the left side on assists from Tyler Wotherspoon (13th) and Robbie Russo (18th) with 5:46 left. Recently-acquired Timur Ibragimov then got his first with the team when he finished a sequence of prolonged pressure with a rebound goal from in close. Walsh got his third helper of the game and Aarne Talvitie also earned an assist, his eighth of the season.

Poulter continued to hold the fort for the Comets, stopping all seven shots on goal in the third and going on to earn the win with a 28-save performance. "I liked his game," said Comets' head coach Kevin Dineen after the win. "His third period, when they made their push, I loved our response and the way he made sure that when we needed a timely save he was there for us."

The Comets finally got the lead back when Filip Engaras scored his fourth goal of the season 1:24 into the third on assists from Nolan Foote (ninth) and Joe Gambardella (22nd).

Though the Comets went without scoring on the power play in seven attempts in the game, they did get a shorthanded goal to cushion the lead. Seventy-nine seconds after taking the lead, and while down a man, captain Ryan Schmelzer and Foote went on a two-on-one. While Schmelzer's initial shot was denied he eventually grabbed the puck again and scored his fifth goal of the season. Foote earned his second assist of the game.

Dineen said he wasn't overly concerned with the early deficit, noting that there's 60 minutes in each game. But, "You'd like some more composure." As for the power play, he said, "It's wasn't good." He said he was primarily concerned with "how aggressive they were and how many opportunities we gave them."

Walsh, who logged a three-assist night to tie him for the team lead with Graeme Clarke, said the comeback showed that "we're just a resilient group." The team, he said, has scored big goals late in games to tie or take the lead a number of times this season. "I think it was just staying with our game." He added, "The team that we played against creates a lot but they give up a lot so it kind of swings both ways." And, "We capitalized on the chances they gave us and we hung around."

Walsh continued, "At this point in the season we know our identity and we know how we want to play." He said, "Good teams can carry that momentum and good teams can stop the momentum from the other team."

After a game full of assists he said, "I'm never going to complain about offense like that but my job is to keep it out of my net as my first priority." And after Syracuse scored, he said, "Me being able to answer those plays with good plays on the other side of the puck is something that is fun."

With the win, the Comets slipped past Syracuse back into second place and are now 27-20-6-2. They have played one more game this season than the Crunch, however.

On Friday, the Comets host the Belleville Senators at 7 p.m. The Senators are in sixth place in the North Division, just on the outside of the playoff bubble, and trail Utica by nine points.


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