Comets rout reeling Americans

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UTICA — The Utica Comets ran over the Rochester Americans 7-1 at home Friday night, with seven Comets scoring a goal each. The loss was Rochester’s seventh in a row.

The Comets benefitted from the addition of several players, including some from the NHL and from injury. “The forward group, we haven’t been that deep in a while,” noted head coach Trent Cull after the win.

Utica scored three of the four goals in the first period. Dakota Joshua opened the scoring in his first game back on assignment from the St. Louis Blues, tallying one just over three minutes into the game. The Utica forwards bottled up Rochester defenders behind their own net and Nolan Stevens came away with the puck for a shot near the post. The rebound bounced to Joshua on the opposite side of the net for a put back to make it 1-0 Comets.

Michael DiPietro, making his first appearance with the Comets in net since the end of last season, stopped a penalty shot attempt by Brent Gates Jr. with a kick save to maintain the one-goal lead with 6:37 left in the period. But the Amerks would tie the game 18 seconds later when Brett Murray beat DiPietro on a rebound.

The Comets grabbed the lead back 14 seconds later. Lukas Jasek scored his third goal of the season when he found a little space in the left circle for a wrist shot that beat Stefanos Lekkas. Nikita Alexandrov got his first AHL point in his league debut, tallying an assist on the goal.

The Comets built the lead to 3-1 with 45 seconds left in the first period. Will Lockwood tallied his fourth goal of the season when he slipped past a defender on the right side and cut to the goal, tucking a backhanded shot home. Jonah Gadjovich got an assist on the goal, his third of the season.

The second period was all Utica, with the hosts getting four goals. But first Gadjovich fought Matej Pekar, who had been penalized in the first period for a hit on Tyler Tucker.

“We got a fast start in the second period, which set the tone,” Cull said. He also said he was happy with each line on the night, and was content “rolling our groups out there and letting them go.”

Just over two minutes in Alexandrov got his first AHL goal, tipping in a puck that was shot from the point by Josh Teves. Teves earned his second assist of the season and Jasek got his 14th on the goal that made it 4-1.

The Comets scored their first power play goal of the game 4:30 into the middle frame when Curtis McKenzie tapped in a rebound off a shot from the point by Carson Focht. It was McKenzie’s fourth goal of the season. Focht earned his seventh assist and Jett Woo got his second assist of the season.

Utica added a second power play goal shortly after that. With just over six minutes left in the second Gadjovich scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season when he took a pass from Sam Anas down low and beat Lekkas to make it 6-1. It was Anas’ team-leading 16th assist. Guillaume Brisebois got his second assist in three games since rejoining Utica.

The Comets pushed the lead to 7-1 with 5:45 left in the second period. Focht fired a shot from a sharp angle on the right side and the puck passed through the crease and bounced off a Rochester player and into the net. The score gave Focht three on the season. McKenzie got his sixth assist of the year and Josh Wesley earned his fourth.

The third period was a parade of players to the penalty boxes for both teams. A rough game broke down into various scuffles and game misconducts. In the end, the Comets had 41 penalty minutes to the Amerks’ 61.

DiPietro made 19 saves in his season debut to get the win. He said he wanted to make sure he was mentally engaged in the game, “staying in the moment.” He added: “You want to be sharp too.” He said he felt more comfortable as the game went on. “The nerves went away.” After going 14 months without getting in a game, DiPietro said, “It was a fun game to play in.” It was also, he noted, “good just being part of a team,” being able to contribute in a win.

“He did some really good things. There were big saves when he was called upon early in the game,” Cull said of the goalie’s performance. “Great to have him back.”

Utica improved to 12-7-1 on the season. Next up is a road game at 3 p.m. Sunday against the Syracuse Crunch.

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