UTICA, N.Y. – After nine straight losses, the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets beat their Northern Division rivals, the Albany Devils, on Friday night, 4-2, in front a sold out crowd at Utica Memorial Auditorium, marking Utica’s 73rd sellout in a row.
With time rapidly ticking away to make up ground in the standings, the Comets made their intentions of returning to the Calder Cup Playoffs obvious against Albany, the team which ended their bid for a title last season.
Comets defenseman Colby Robak scored the game’s opening goal, his second of the season, on a power play drive with helpers from Alexandre Grenier and Cody Kunyk. Later in the first period, the Devils struck back with a power play goal of their own from center Max Novak with assists by Blake Coleman and Reece Scarlett.
With the score knotted at one to start the second, Grenier put the Comets ahead as he sent a pass from Darren Archibald past Albany netminder, Mackenzie Blackwood. Utica tacked on another 14 seconds into the third period on Curtis Valk’s 11th goal of the season with assists from Archibald and Robak.
The Comets held onto a 3-1 lead until the Devils came to within one on a play developed by Jacob MacDonald and Carter Camper and eventually finished by Blake Coleman. With tensions high late in the third period, Blackwood was called to the bench, allowing Utica’s Wacey Hamilton, assisted by Mike Zalewski, to score an empty-netter and ensure the team’s 4-2 victory.
The weekend brought another win for the Comets when they visited the Hershey Bears and won a 3-2 thriller in overtime on Saturday, yet the Lehigh Valley Phantoms bested Utica on Sunday in Allentown, P.A., 4-1.
While the Comets will more than likely extend their sellout streak at home this Wednesday, January 11, at home against the Syracuse Crunch, it remains to be seen if the team can string together a winning streak long enough to guarantee them a spot in the playoffs this spring.