The Utica Comets wiped out an early 3-0 deficit to set up Darren Archibald’s second overtime game-winning goal in three games, as the Comets slipped by the Springfield Thunderbirds 5-4 Friday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Comets record improves to 4-9-1-0 on the year.
Curtis Valk (1-2-3) led the Comets offensively and tallied three points while Joseph LaBate (1-1-2) and Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) chipped in with two points apiece. Jordan Subban (0-1-1), Cole Cassels (1-0-1), Cody Kunyk (0-1-1), Darren Archibald (1-0-1), Wacey Hamilton (0-1-1), and Chad Billins (0-1-1) all collected a point in the win. Goaltender Thatcher Demko earned his seconnd career professional victory and stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced in the process.
The Comets and Thunderbirds fought evenly throughout the first seven minutes until Sena Acolatse struck first for the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds forward buried the rebound off a blast from Mike Downing.
In the waning minutes of the opening period, the Thunderbirds doubled their lead. With Tom Nilsson in the box for interference, MacKenzie Weegar rocketed a shot from the point that beat Demko stick side.
Springfield came out strong in the second period and quickly picked up where they left off in the first period. Dryden Hunt made it 3-0 just one minute in when his wrist shot snuck past Demko’s blocker.
From there, it was mostly all Comets.
Grenier grabbed the momentum and got the Comets on the board just six minutes later on a 2-on 1-rush. After he looked off the defender, he rifled a shot over McKenna’s shoulder, popping the goaltender’s water bottle in the air in the process. Kunyk and Valk picked up the assists.
The home team struck again three minutes later as Cassels notched his first of the year after a battle in the crease. The two teams went back and forth during the final nine minutes, with the Thunderbirds holding a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Early in the third period, with Shane Harper in the box for high sticking, LaBate made the Thunderbirds pay as he tied the game one minute into the final period.
With the game’s momentum firmly in the Comets favor, the Thunderbirds quickly regained it back when John Brown struck four minutes later to give them a 4-3 lead.
The Comets’ feverish late rally paid off when Valk drew a holding call while on a breakaway and was rewarded with a penalty shot. Valk showed off some nifty moves to beat McKenna and tie the game with 2:50 remaining in regulation, and ultimately, to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Comets didn’t need long to complete the comeback – in style.
In transition, Archibald drove to the net and showed great patience and slid the puck past a sprawling McKenna. The goal was initially waved off and play continued. The play was reviewed after a whistle, and the call on the ice was overturned, giving Utica a huge overtime win.
The Comets power play went 1-for-4 on the night, while the penalty kill gave up one goal in six attempts. For the second time in three games, Archibald recorded the overtime winner. Prior to these three games Archibald had went 266 career AHL games without scoring an overtime winner.
The Comets continue their six game homestand Saturday night at 7 p.m. as they welcome the Rochester Americans to the Utica Memorial Auditorium.