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Utica, NY – For the final time in the regular season, the Utica Comets stepped onto the ice against their in-state rival, the Syracuse Crunch. Having won 10 of the first 13 games against them this season, on Friday night, the Comets went onto win the contest and register their 40th win of the season by a 5-1 score.
The scoring started in the first period when Comets defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk wristed a shot from the point past Syracuse goalie Hugo Alnefelt to put the comets up 1-0 at 8:09. It was Okhotiuk’s first goal since October 29thagainst Lehigh Valley. That would be all the scoring in the first period and the team went into the second frame up by a goal.
In the second period, Alexander Holtz made a nifty pass to defenseman Reilly Walsh in the slot, putting the comets up 2-0 at 5:01. Later, the Crunch would get on the board when forward Anthony Richard broke loose on the penalty kill for the breakaway goal five-hole against the comets goaltender Akira Schmid at 16:58 cutting the deficit to one. As the period progressed, fireworks ensued between the Crunch and the Comets resulting in numerous power plays for Utica, but they were unable to convert on the man advantage. The Comets took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
In the final period of regulation, Comets defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon scored a shorthanded goal at 14:31 to give Utica a 3-1 lead. Wotherspoon rushed the puck up ice and into the offensive zone, then sent a shot on net that snuck in on the shortside of Alnefelt. With three minutes remaining in the game, Wotherspoon was involved in another scoring play when he deflected the puck to Brian Flynn, who sent it nearly the entire length of the ice and into an empty Syracuse net. In the final minute, Comets newcomer Brian Halonen extended the lead to four when he sent a beautiful shot into the top corner of the Syracuse net. Michael Vukojevic and Jeremy Groleau collected assists on Halonen’s goal that solidified a 5-1 victory for Utica.
The Comets return to action tomorrow night against the Belleville Senators in the penultimate home game of the regular season. The game starts at 7:00 PM. Tickets are still available. You can purchase them by going to uticacomets.com/tickets.