The Utica Comets fell to the San Antonio Rampage 8-4 on New Year’s Day at The Utica Memorial Auditorium in their first regulation loss in 11 games. This also marks the first time the Comets have lost in regulation in front of a sell-out crowd at The AUD.
Despite offensive production from four different Comets players, San Antonio’s goaltender Dan Ellis bested Utica in net with a total of 28 saves on 32 shots on net. Rampage forward, Bobby Butler (1-2-3), helped record the most offensive production on the team while being awarded the second star of the game.
After a handful of saves on both ends of the ice, San Antonio found the first goal of the night with just under three minutes left in the first period. Following a puck battle along the boards, Brett Olson retrieved the puck from the chaos behind Jacob Markstrom’s net. Olson didn’t hang on the puck for long and opted for a quick pass back out to the blue line from in between the hashmarks. Shane O’Brien received Olson’s pass and immediately propelled the rubber over Markstrom’s glove hand for the 1-0 lead. Butler was credited with the secondary assist.
The second period left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth except for San Antonio. In 11 minutes and 23 seconds, the Rampage scored six goals.
Their second of the game and first of the period came at 4:07 after Andrey Pedan took an interference penalty a minute prior. Drew Shore made a pass across the blue pain to Connor Brickley who then popped it past Markstrom’s left side to make it 2-0. Wade Megan was also tallied an assist on the play.
Before San Antonio could unleash another attack, the Comets answered back roughly two minutes later. After Cal O’Reilly rushed into the neutral zone, the puck made its way to Pedan who then left the puck with Alex Biega. To finish the play, O’Reilly was waiting to the right side of Ellis’ net to pop in the cross-ice pass from Biega to keep the score within one.
Despite the Comets efforts to fight back, Rampage continued on with their destruction. At 8:06 Butler forced the Comets to turn over the puck behind Markstrom’s net. Oncer Butler had possession, he pass the puck to Garrett Wilson who took a point blank shot that popped between Markstrom’s legs to make the two goal lead theirs once again with a score of 3-1.
The Comets next goal was the perfect definition of a give-and-go play. A minute and a half after San Antonio’s last goal, Brandon DeFazio and Dustin Jeffrey rushed into the offensive zone. With two consecutive passes, the puck made its way to Biega’s stick just above the center hashmarks. With a flick of the stick, Biega’s wrist shot was buried top shelf over Ellis’ glove hand for a shorthanded goal to make it 3-2.
San Antonio scored another at 10:45 on a 5-on-3 opportunity. With one slapshot from Rocco Grimaldi and a tip in front of the net by Jesse Blacker, the Rampage made the score 4-2 on the power-play goal. Mark Mancari took credit for the secondary assist.
Immediately one minute after, the Comets answered back for the last time of the period with a DeFazio wrist shot. After some board play by O’Reilly and Wacey Hamilton, the puck found its way to DeFazio who netted his 14th of the season to make it 4-3.
What followed was a burst of three goals from their southern foes.
Just 36 seconds after DeFazio’s goal, Butler sniped in a shot over Markstrom’s shoulder for another two-goal lead after his linemates Blacker and Grimaldi both contributed on the play.
After letting in four goals in during the second period alone, Markstrom was pulled from his duties and replace by Joacim Eriksson after playing 32:24 in the crease.
At 14:25 Shore received a pass across the crease from Mancari and tapped the puck in the backdoor for their sixth goal of the night. Brickley received the secondary assist. Moments later, the puck found its way past Eriksson for the second time. Megan gave a quick dish to Andrew Yogan who blasted in the one-timer top-shelf before Eriksson had time to react. Stephan Vigier also received an assist on San Antonio’s sixth goal of the period and seventh of the game.
And with the start of the third period, the game was evidently drawing to a close.
Even while trailing by four, the Comets still dug for some energy as they scored their fourth of the night directly off of a face-off in the attacking zone. At 7:15 Will Acton pushed the puck to Pedan for a hard slapshot from the point. On it’s way through, Jensen caught a piece of the puck to tip it in past Ellis to close the gap to three.
Rampage eventually sealed the deal at 14:21 after some board play behind Eriksson’s net. The puck popped out to the left of Eriksson as Alex Petrovic lifted the puck past Eriksson, to the post, and then into the net to make it a final score of 8-4. Logan Shaw received the only assist on the play.
The last time the Comets allowed eight goals in one game was on January 17, 2014 against the Albany Devils at The AUD.
With an early start to their weekend, the Comets will keep on trucking right on through Saturday. Tomorrow night, the Adirondack Flames will play host to Utica for a 7 p.m. puck drop at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Comets have yet to drop a game to the Calgary Flames affiliate through five games this season. On Saturday, the Comets will return to The AUD for their first of two match-ups against the Iowa Wild this season.