Comets back on top of AHL after thrilling OT win

( — The Utica Comets slipped by the San Antonio Rampage in a 5-4 overtime win Friday night at the AT&T Center for their third consecutive win against their Texan foes. The Comets secured a total of five out of six points on their three-game road trip in the south.

Named first star of the game, Dustin Jeffrey saw his best game of the season yet with one goal and three assists for a total of four points. Cal O’Reilly (0-3-3) and Alex Biega (1-1-2) also helped push the Comets towards tiheir sixteenth victory of the season. Goaltender Joacim Eriksson saved 33 of 37 shots in his third consecutive start for the club.
The Comets found the first goal of the game at the tail end of the first period at 15:04. Roughly 30 seconds after San Antonio defenseman Shane O’Brien took a cross checking penalty, O’Reilly battled along the boards to keep the Comets on the attack. Once the puck popped away from the boards, Jeffrey swept the puck away and fed it across for Alexandre Grenier who quickly buried the puck for past Rampage netminder Dan Ellis for a power-play goal and the 1-0 lead.
The second period had no shortage of goals, with a combined total of five scored.
Utica quickly found their second of the night just 1:04 into the second stanza after a Biega slap shot from the point that slipped through Ellis’ legs. Ronalds Kenins met with Ellis at the net and knocked in the rolling puck to ensure the goal that gave Utica the 2-0 lead. Jeffrey was credited with the secondary assist.
Even with Quinton Howden in the box for tripping, the Rampage still found their first goal of the night shorthanded about a minute and a half after the Comets’ second goal. After a pass was broken up in the Comets’ offensive zone, Brett Olsen raced ahead for the breakaway and slipped a rolling puck through Eriksson’s legs to make it 2-1.
Bobby Sanguinetti found the Comets’ third goal of the night at 7:40 on the power play after rifling one through Ellis from the right point to make the score 3-1. Jeffrey and O’Reilly received the secondary assists on the play.
San Antonio took a liking to being shorthanded as they found their second of the night while they were killing off another penalty. At 12:52, Connor Brickley popped the puck to Steven Kampfer. Kampfer slapped one home past Eriksson to make it 3-2 on the short-handed goal to chip away at the Comets’ lead once again. Drew Shore also received an assist on the play.
Just before the second period came to a close, San Antonio found the equalizer at 17:01 on their third power-play attempt. The Rampage offense left the Comets defense spinning in circles after Shore received a pass from Mark Mancari. Shore then fed the puck to the front of the net for a one-timer from Alex Petrovic. Before Eriksson knew it, the puck was in his net for the power-play goal and the Rampage came back to make it a score of 3-3 before heading into the third period.
At 8:45 into the third period, San Antonio took the lead for the first time in the game after a shot was fired on Eriksson by Brickley. Eriksson made the initial save but a rebound popped out to his right and Logan Shaw buried it to make it a 4-3 game. Blake Parlett tallied an assist as well.
But in true Utica fashion, the Comets did not give up that easily.
Jeffrey scored his first of the night and tallied his fourth point with barely three minutes left in regulation. After receiving a quick feed in front from Alex Friesen, Jeffrey buried a top-shelf goal on Ellis for the 4-4 equalizer, which ultimately forced the overtime period. Kane Lafranchise received the secondary assist.
Biega put an end to the night at 3:17 into the overtime period. With no whistles blown, 4-on-4 play continued after the three-minute mark. One quick snipe over the shoulder of Ellis gave Utica the overtime win with a 5-4 final decision. Brandon DeFazio received an assist on the play along with O’Reilly, who now has 20 assists on the season.
With the overtime win, the Comets now have 35 points on the season and are sitting just one point ahead of the Rockford IceHogs for the AHL league lead.