The Comets peppered Alex Lyon and the Phantoms with a season-most 47 shots Sunday, but those quality chances werent quite enough to get past the American Hockey Leagues highest scoring team.
UTICA The Utica Comets had their chances against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The Comets peppered Alex Lyon and the Phantoms with a season-most 47 shots Sunday, but couldnt cash in on those quality chances to get past the American Hockey Leagues highest scoring team.
Instead, the Phantoms broke a tie game with two quick goals early in the third period to skate past the Comets for a 7-4 victory on Sunday afternoon in an intense, back-and-forth affair in front of another announced capacity crowd of 3,870 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
“You get 47 shots, youre doing a lot of good things,” said Comets coach Travis Green, whose team allowed two empty-netters late. “We had some good chances. The pucks just arent going in the way we want.”
Cody Kunyk continued a recent hot streak with a shorthanded goal and an assist and Jordan Subban, Andrey Pedan and Alex Grenier also scored for the Comets, who had more than 40 shots for the second time in a week. Rookie Thatcher Demko totaled 26 saves for the Comets.
“It is a tough one to lose,” said Grenier, whose 15 goals tie him for the team lead. “Obviously, its hard for us. Especially with all the bounces we arent getting.”
It equaled another tough loss for the Comets (20-23-6-2, 48 points), who had two leads erased by the Phantoms. The matchup continued a busy stretch for Utica, which remains outside of a playoff spot in the North Division with 25 games remaining. The Comets, who are 2-7-1-1 in their last 11 games, play a total five contests in seven days.
“You cant sit there and start counting games. Its too early for that,” Green said. “You cant accept (the loss). We have to come back and put our work boots on.”
Lyon, who had allowed two goals in two previous starts against the Comets, finished with 43 saves and T.J. Brennan scored three goals to help pace the Phantoms (34-16-2-0).
The Comets and Phantoms combined for 25 shots in a physical and intense opening frame.
Utica took a 1-0 with help from a patient Borna Rendulic, who has figured into the first goal in each of the last four games. On the play, Rendulic broke in on the left side and found a streaking Subban in the right circle, where the defenseman fired over Lyons glove for his 11th of the season with 4:57 remaining.
The teams combined for five goals in a wild frame. The Comets had leads of 2-0 and 3-2, but the Phantoms answered.
Three goals were scored less than two minutes apart early with Pedans fourth of the season a blast from the left side of the blue line giving the Comets a two-goal lead with 14:31 remaining.
However, Lehigh Valley countered with a power-play goal and an even-strength tally 54 seconds apart soon after to draw even.
Green said the Comets, who allowed two power-play goals on six opportunities, took too many penalties against one of the leagues power-play top teams.
“Its hard sometimes to stay out of the box,” Grenier said. “We cant give them that many chances.”
Special teams played a role later in goals scored 26 seconds apart. With Joseph LaBate in the box, Pascal Pelletier sprinted down the right side and backhanded the puck to a streaking Kunyk, who tipped it in the puck with 2:09 left.
Lehigh Valley answered again when Brennans power-play blast with 1:43 remaining knotted the game at 3.
The offense continued with the teams combining for 30 shots.
The Phantoms took control on goals less than a minute apart by Robert Haag which gave the team their first lead — and Brennan about seven minutes in.
The Comets, who totaled 16 shots in the period, answered soon after on the power play with 12:26 left. Grenier ended an eight-game goalless streak when he scored from the right circle to make it 5-4.
The game remained that way until late when Demko was pulled and the Phantoms added two empty-net goals to seal the victory.
“Its a hard deficit to come back, especially against a team like that,” Grenier said.
The Comets hit the road for a rare Monday afternoon game when they take on the Albany Devils at 1 p.m. at the Times Union Center. The meeting is the first between the North Division teams since Jan. 6 in Utica. The Comets, who won that game, are 3-2 against the Devils this season.
Notes: Sundays game was the 81st consecutive sellout for the Comets, though there were a few unfilled seats throughout the Aud. Demko also added his third assist of the season on Greniers goal. New Hartfords Mike Zalewski was not in the lineup Sunday due to an injury. He is day-to-day, according to Green. Derek Hulak (31 consecutive games) and John Negrin (18 consecutive games) remain out of the lineup with injuries. Former NHL star John LeClair was at Sundays game. LeClair and Comets president Robert Esche were teammates while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Phantoms 7, Comets 4
Lehigh Valley 0 3 4 7
Utica 1 2 1 4
1st Period-1, Utica, Subban 11 (Rendulic, Carcone), 15:03. Penalties-Pedan Uti (slashing), 8:25; Brennan Lv (slashing), 8:53; Uti (bench minor – too many men), 12:22; Virtanen Uti (slashing), 15:08; Zengerle Lv (hooking), 16:17. 2nd Period-2, Utica, Pedan 4 (Virtanen, Kunyk), 5:29. 3, Lehigh Valley, Conner 16 (Knight, Miele), 6:20 (PP). 4, Lehigh Valley, Hagg 6 (Morin, Fazleev), 7:14. 5, Utica, Kunyk 8 (Pelletier, Shields), 17:51 (SH). 6, Lehigh Valley, Brennan 15 (Sanheim, Martel), 18:17 (PP). Penalties-Hamilton Uti (holding), 6:11; O’Neill Lv (slashing, roughing), 14:05; LaBate Uti (cross-checking), 14:05; Morin Lv (boarding), 15:48; LaBate Uti (holding), 16:38; Hagg Lv (interference), 19:47. 3rd Period-7, Lehigh Valley, Hagg 7 (Laughton), 5:34. 8, Lehigh Valley, Brennan 16 (Conner, Carey), 6:28. 9, Utica, Grenier 15 (McEneny, Demko), 7:34 (PP). 10, Lehigh Valley, Brennan 17 (Lyon), 18:25 (EN). 11, Lehigh Valley, Bardreau 8 (McDonald), 19:48 (EN). Penalties-Aube-Kubel Lv (hooking), 6:33; Subban Uti (hooking), 9:47; Hagg Lv (unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:32; Archibald Uti (unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:32; McDonald Lv (diving/embellishment), 17:41; Robak Uti (slashing), 17:41. Shots on Goal-Lehigh Valley 12-7-14-33. Utica 13-18-16-47. Power Play Opportunities-Lehigh Valley 2 / 6; Utica 1 / 6. Goalies-Lehigh Valley, Lyon 21-10-2 (47 shots-43 saves). Utica, Demko 9-11-4 (31 shots-26 saves). A-3,870 Referees-Peter Tarnaris (17), Tim Mayer (19). Linesmen-Matt Brady (86), Francois Dussureault (60).
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