The Comets have lost three of their last four games.
by Scott Kinville, host of the Marty’s Illegal Stick podcast
The good news is the Utica Comets held the Hartford Wolfpack to only two goals. The bad news is they only scored one for themselves.
With Frank Fleming and Coach Duggs from Barstool Sports in attendance, the Comets got an unpleasant surprise before the game even started. Alexander Holtz and Kevin Bahl, who had just been reassigned to the team two days prior by the New Jersey Devils, were placed in the AHL Covid protocol making them unavailable for the game (they had played the night before against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton).
The Wolfpack, who are the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, scored the game’s first goal in the first period, taking just twelve seconds to strike on the first powerplay of the contest. Anthony Bitetto fed Justin Richards in the left circle who attempted to send a pass to Ty Ronning but instead the puck ended up in the net past Utica goaltender Mareks Mitens to make the score 1-0. This was Mitens second start in as many nights, as he was in goal for the Comets 6-5 shootout win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins the night before.
The Comets nearly tied the game with one minute left in the first period when Tyler Irvine got in all alone on a breakaway against Hartford goaltender Adam Huska, but Huska made the save to keep the score at 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
The Comets came out with a more concentrated offensive effort in the second period, outshooting the Wolfpack five to one through the first five minutes of the frame. Much to Utica’s chagrin, it would be Hartford that scored the next goal. Mike O’Leary blocked a Utica clearing attempt at the blue line and slid a pass to Cristiano DiGiacinto, who then sent a backhanded pass to Alex Whelan deep in the right circle. Whelan then wired a shot top shelf past Mitens to extend the Wolfpack lead to two – a lead they would hold throughout the period.
The beginning of the third period was a reversal of what the start of the second period was, as the Wolfpack outshot the Comets three to none, but they gave Utica a powerplay that the Comets would capitalize on. This time it was the Comets who blocked a clearing attempt at the blue line and Fabian Zetterlund sent a cross-ice pass to team-leading scorer Chase DeLeo along the left half wall. DeLeo then found Frederik Gauthier at the top of the Hartford crease who redirected the feed past Huska and into the net to make the score 2-1.
With a minute left in the game and the score 2-1, Utica coach Kevin Dineen pulled Mitens for an extra skater. Despite a furious attempt to the game in the closing seconds, Utica could not get one more past Huska, and Hartford skated away with the victory. The loss was only the third regulation defeat of the season for the Comets, albeit their second in their last three games.
Notes: Hartford outshot Utica by a 25-22 margin…Hartford was 1 for 6 on the powerplay, Utica was 1 for 4…Neither team had a player with more than one point in the game…With his powerplay assist, Utica’s Chase DeLeo extended his point-scoring streak to six games…Frederik Gauthier of the Comets has goals in two straight games…Hartford’s next game is on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Checkers…Utica’s next game is also on Wednesday night, on the road against Rochester.