The Belleville Senators fell 4-2 to the Utica Comets Saturday night in New York.
In his third straight start, Filip Gustavsson made 17 saves while Jordan Murray and Filip Chlapik had goals. Utica had goals from Jonathan Dahlen, Tanner Kero, Cam Darcy and Brendan Gaunce while Thatcher Demko made 26 saves in his second start of the season.
The Comets took advantage of four straight penalties to start the game to build a 2-0 lead. Dahlen struck 3:35 on a one-timer that beat Gustavsson five-hole after Chase Balisy had been called for a faceoff infraction. Kero made it 2-0 at 14:05 as he score out-front after Zack MacEwen’s pass from besides the net.
The Senators thought they got on the board in the final minute of the period through Nick Paul as he turned and fired but the goal was waved off for a hand pass on Ben Sexton.
However, Belleville did officially get on the board at 2:06 of the second through Murray as he redirected Logan Brown’s point shot past Demko for his third goal of the year before Joseph LaBate was denied on a breakaway as he looked for a goal against his old club.
But Chlapik did find the tying goal at 12:36 as Stuart Percy’s goal-bound shot saw the Czech forward lift the puck high over Demko’s shoulder with a tip to notch his fifth goal of the campaign as the Sens’ second period pressure paid off.
But the hosts grabbed a 3-2 lead at 15:09 as Darcy jumped out of the penalty box to take Carter Bancks’ stretch pass and beat Gustavsson high for his fourth of the season.
The Senators came out pressing in the third and nearly found a tying goal first through Francois Beauchemin as Demko just got a toe on his shot from the faceoff circle before stuffing Rudolfs Balcers in the slot after the loose puck bounced his way.
Nick Paul hit the post from a tight angle with under 4:30 to play off of a Demko rebound in what was Belleville’s last quality chance as despite Christian Wolanin blocking a wide open net to keep Belleville in the game, Gaunce’s empty-netter with 30.4 seconds left secured the win for Utica.
Brown’s assist was the first of his AHL career. His first pro assist came with Ottawa last season. Paul Carey’s and Jack Rodewald’s five-game points streaks were snapped in the loss.
The Senators return to the ice on Wednesday for a battle in Laval before coming home on Nov. 30 to host the Comets. Tickets are available here and currently start at just $20.50 through Cyber Monday.