Utica Comets 1 Drop to Grand Rapids Griffins 5

For the first time this season the Utica Comets have a losing streak. The Grand Rapids 5-1 victory over the Comets sent Utica to their third straight loss.

Dustin Jeffrey (1-0-1) found the Comets only goal of the game as the team struggled to stay out of the penalty box all night long. Pat Nagle, the Griffins goaltending prospect from the Eastern Coast Hockey League kept the Comets on a leash all night long by stopping 28 of the 29 shots the Comets released on him. Comets goaltender, Joacim Eriksson saw a plethora of shots from the Griffins and managed to stop all but three of the 35 he faced.

A stretch pass is what started it all for the Griffins just before the half-way mark in the first period. Alexey Marchenko fed the puck to Mark Zengerle from one blue line to the next and as Zengerle skated past the Comets defense he positioned himself in a good spot directly in the center slot. Before the Comets defense could catch up to him, Zengerle released a wrist shot that beat Eriksson glove side for the early 1-0 lead. Anthony Mantha took credit for the secondary assist.

As the teams headed into the second period, Jeffrey decided to integrate some of his chest bumping skills into his bag of hockey tricks. At 8:14, the veteran Comets forward found himself in front of Griffins goaltender Pat Nagle as the puck came flying towards his chest following a shot from Nicklas Jensen. The puck bounced off of Jeffrey’s chest and directly into the net to give the Comets even the score up at one. Bobby Sanguinetti also tallied an assist on the play.

Just as the period was winding down, the Griffins found a buzzer beater quite literally within the last second of the period. In the midst of a scramble in front of the Comets net, Mitch Callahan popped the puck through Eriksson’s legs for the 2-1 lead that just barley beat the clock. Teemu Pulkkinen and Nathan Paetsch both received assists on their second goal of the game.

Even though the Comets rank as the number one penalty killing team on the road, they ended up faltering on their fifth penalty kill of the night after a shot from Scott Czarnowczan. Following the wristshot from Czarnowczan, Eriksson tracked it down with his glove-hand but immediately lost control of the puck. As it dropped to the wayside, Marek Tvrdon guided it into the net behind Eriksson for the power-play goal and the 3-1 lead. Ryan Sproul also made an appearance on the scorers sheet for the secondary assist.

As the third winded down, Eriksson was pulled away from his duties with five minutes left in regulation to give the Comets the extra-attacker for the come-back attempt. What resulted was two empty-net goals both from Tomas Nosek. The first was a short-handed goal and went unassisted at 15:55 and his second came at 19:01 with assists from both Pulkkinen and Jeff Hoggan.

The Comets only have one more game to cross off of their list before the American Hockey League’s All-Star break. The Rockford IceHogs will host the Utica hockey club tomorrow night for an 8 p.m. EST match-up at the BMO Harris Bank center for their first meeting of the season