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Spirited Utica Comets comeback falls short

The Utica Comets nearly erased a 5-1 deficit against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday night but ultimately fell short.

A trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the PPL Center was on the schedule Wednesday night for the Utica Comets as they faced the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Although they found themselves down by four goals in the second period, the Comets kept plugging away to get back in the game. When the final horn sounded, however, they found themselves on the losing end of a 5-4 score.

The offense started almost immediately after the opening faceoff, as the Comets scored just eleven seconds into the game. Former Phantom Max Willman wrapped a shot around Lehigh Valley goaltender Felix Sandtrom for an early 1-0 lead. The home team would quickly respond as eighty-six seconds later Garrett Wilson snapped a shot from the right circle past Comets goaltender Isaac Poulter and in to tie the game.

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Just over a minute later, the Phantoms took the lead when Wade Allison beat Poulter from in close off a centering pass from Cooper Marody. Two minutes after the Allison goal, Lehigh Valley made it 3-1 when Alexis Gendron burst into the Utica zone and wired a shot into the top left corner of the net.

After the Gendron goal, Comets Head Coach Kevin Dineen pulled Poulter and replaced him with Jeremy Brodeur. Brodeur was recalled to Utica from Adirondack of the ECHL earlier in the morning. This would be Brodeur’s first AHL action since the 2021-22 season.

The scoring in the first period came to an end with the Gendron goal but quickly started again in the second period. Twenty-seven seconds after the opening faceoff, Jacob Gaucher scored his first goal of the season to give Lehigh Valley a 4-1 lead. Just under two minutes after the Gaucher goal, the Phantoms made the score 5-1. Marody redirected an Elliot Desnoyers pass at the edge of the crease past Brodeur to extend his team’s lead to four.

In the last half of the second period, the Comets mounted a furious comeback. It started when Graeme Clarke scored his team-leading eleventh goal on a breakaway to get them within three. Two minutes later, Utica struck on the power play. Willman set Justin Dowling up for a goal from the left circle to make the score 5-3.

Willman would continue to haunt his former team. With a minute and thirty-seven seconds remaining in the middle frame, he ripped a shot past Sandstrom from the top of the right circle, and the Comets went into the second intermission down by only one goal.

All of the offensive fireworks were used in the first two periods, as the teams combined for only six shots in the third (three from each). No goals were scored and Lehigh Valley hung on for the 5-4 victory. The Comets and Phantoms will meet again on March 1st in Utica.

The Comets return home for games against Providence on Friday and Rochester on Saturday. For more information about the Utica Comets, including schedules and ticketing, visit https://uticacomets.com.

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