(Utica, NY) – A shorthanded tally by the Utica Comets (4-9-1-0) midway through the second period was the difference in Saturday night’s game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium as the Rochester Americans (7-8-0-1) fell by the score of 2-1.
Nick Baptiste scored for the sixth time this season in providing Rochester’s lone goal and rookie forward Alexander Nylander picked an assist for the Amerks. Making his fourth straight start, goaltender Linus Ullmark stopped 25 of 27 in the defeat, moving his record to 6-5-1 on the campaign.
Cole Cassels scored a shorthanded tally that held up as the game-winning goal and Curtis Valk opened the scoring to lead the Comets to the win. Richard Bachman earned his third win of season, making 15 saves on 16 shots he faced, but left the game with 6:57 left in the third period due to a lower-body injury. Rookie goalie Thatcher Demko made the final four saves in the crease to preserve the win for Utica.
The hosts found the back of the net less than six minutes into the first period to begin the scoring on the night when Valk scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Valk extended his goal and point streak to four games as he fired a shot from in-between the circles to beat Ullmark just inside the right post just 5:15 in. Darren Archibald picked up the primary helper on the play to run his point streak to five games.
The teams exchanged chances over the remaining 15 minutes of the first frame, but neither team capitalized as they left the ice with the score 1-0 in favor of Utica.
The North Division foes tightened down defensively until the Amerks caught a break as they were rewarded with their first power-play nearly halfway through the middle stanza.
The Comets gained control of the puck on the infraction near their own bench, but Nylander stripped his man of the puck and hit Baptiste in stride as he was slipping behind the Utica Comet defenseman. Baptiste, who also has NHL 10 games this season with the parent Buffalo Sabres, used his speed to break away from the defenseman, beating Bachman in the top corner of the net for his sixth goal of the campaign to tie the contest at 1-1 with 9:56 on the clock.
The goal gives Baptiste three in his three last three games and four points total over that span.
Less than five minutes later the Amerks again drew another power-play, but would not get the results they had hoped for. Utica pressured the Amerks in the middle of the ice that allowed Joseph LaBate to intercept a pass in the neutral zone. He drove wide into the offensive zone and slipped a pass onto the stick of Cassels, who faked to the forehand before using a backhand shot to ultimately give the Comets the lead for good 13:07 into the second.
Rochester tried to find the equalizer over final 19 minutes, but could not find a way to beat either Bachman or Demko, who came in for relief with 6:57 remaining in the third.
The Amerks return home to The Blue Cross Arena for a pre-Thanksgiving Day matchup as they host the Providence Bruins for the first and only time this season. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m. and all of the action will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Baptiste (6)
UTI: Valk (7), Cassels (2)
RCH: Ullmark – 25/27 (L)
UTI: Bachman – 15/16 (W) / Demko – 4/4
RCH: PP (1/3) / PK (3/3)
UTI: PP (0/3) / PK (2/3)