UTICA — Consider it a missed opportunity for the Utica Comets.

The Comets forced extra time Wednesday against the Syracuse Crunch, but couldn't extend a season-best win streak.

With help from an extended shootout, the Crunch edged the Comets 3-2 in a wild, penalty-filled affair at the Adirondack Bank Center at Utica Memorial Auditorium.

In the shootout's seventh round, defenseman Jamie McBain scored the lone goal from in close past Thatcher Demko as the Comets' six-game win streak came to an end despite. The goal came after the Crunch dominated the overtime period.

The Comets -- who rallied from a 2-0 deficit -- had seven players in the shootout either have their shots go wide or stopped by Eddie Pasquale (33 saves), who made his first start against the Comets this season. The teams also went to an 11-round shootout earlier this season in Syracuse.

"It was a resilient effort from our group," said Cole Cassels, who added his career-best 13th assist this season. "Obviously, two points would be nice. But, to get a point like that when we're down early is a hell of an effort. Shootout's can go either way.”

The feisty rivals combined for at least 100 minutes of penalties, because of a fight-filled second period.

The result helped the Comets (26-14-6-4, 62 points) push a team-best point streak to 13 games (10-0-2-1). Wednesday's contest was the first of seven games over 11 days for the resilient Comets, playing without recent call-ups Darren Archibald, Reid Boucher, Nikolay Goldobin and Philip Holm.

“Everyone knows there are ups and downs and call-ups and injuries, so … the group we have have stepped up,” Cassels said. “We’re doing a great job.”

David Dziurzynski -- one of five players on a professional tryout contract -- scored his first goal with the Comets and Patrick Wiercioch also had a goal. Demko turned in another a solid performance finishing with 30 saves — including a few timely stops in the third and overtime. He is 10-1-3 in his last 14 games.

“It was one of those games that I think it is great the guys banned together,” Comets coach Trent Cull said. “For us to battle back … showed a lot. It’s too bad we couldn’t get one in the shootout.”

The shootout loss means the Comets are a point behind second-place Syracuse (29-17-2-3) in the North Division. Utica is tied for third place with Rochester, which was idle Wednesday.

The Crunch seized control against the Comets with two goals in a span of 4:12 early in the first period.

First, Syracuse took advantage of a miscue in the Comets’ zone and Carter Verhaeghe scored his ninth of the season from the slot high past Demko 1:57 into game.

Minutes later, Dominik Masin made it 2-0 on the team’s second shot of the game when he scored his eighth of the season from the slot to finish a tic-tac-toe play with Mitchell Stephens and Mathieu Joseph.

The Comets gained some momentum in a wild and penalty-filled second period. The teams combined for more than 80 penalty minutes in the frame.

“I wasn’t happy with our effort (in the first). I thought we were very sleepy,” Cull said. “And then literally, I thought we fought our way back into the game. We showed a ton of intensity. …”

Demko had one of the biggest stops of the game when he made a sprawling glove stop on a one-timer by Alexander Volkov from the bottom of the right circle with 8:02 remaining.

Dziurzynski got the Comets on the board soon after on the team’s 18th shot of the game with 7:16 remaining in the second. The forward put in a rebound off a shot by Adam Comrie to make it 2-1.

The biggest fireworks happened with 3:20 remaining after an eventual boarding call on Andrew Cherinwchan behind the Syracuse net. After the whistle, multiple fights broke out — including Joe LaBate and Cam Darcy engaged in spirited bouts. As part of the mass incident, Darcy and Michael Bournival each were assessed game misconducts.

“Sometimes when you’re down in a hockey game, you need that,” Cassels said. “It is good battling from us. They stepped up, too. It’s part of hockey and it’s a great rivalry.”

The Comets tied early in the third period. Just after a Utica power play ended, Tony Cameranesi sent a centering feed to an unchecked Wiercioch in the slot. The veteran defenseman quickly scored for his sixth of the season. Hamilton also added an assist.

The score would remain that way and helped forced the ninth shootout of the season for the Comets.

Note: Whitesboro graduate Mark Mowers was in attendance Wednesday. He’s a scout for the Buffalo Sabres. … Comets General Manager Ryan Johnson was also in attendance. … Newly signed Frankie Simonelli was the lone healthy scratch for the Comets.


Crunch 3, Comets 2 (SO)

Syracuse;2;0;0;0 - 3

Utica;0;1;1;0 - 2

1st Period: 1, Syracuse, Verhaeghe 9 (Bodie, Cirelli), 1:57. 2, Syracuse, Masin 8 (Stephens, Joseph), 6:15. Penalties-Carcone Uti (bench minor - too many men), 10:27; Bournival Syr (slashing), 19:45.

2nd Period: 3, Utica, Dziurzynski 1 (Comrie, Cassels), 12:44. Penalties-Thomas Syr (fighting), 5:38; Cassels Uti (fighting), 5:38; McNeill Syr (roughing), 6:51; Cherniwchan Uti (high-sticking), 6:51; Darcy Uti (roughing), 6:51; Comrie Uti (delay of game), 9:05; McNeill Syr (fighting), 16:12; Dziurzynski Uti (fighting), 16:12; Archambault Syr (roughing, roughing), 16:40; Bournival Syr (fighting), 16:40; Condra Syr (fighting), 16:40; Cherniwchan Uti (roughing, roughing, boarding), 16:40; Darcy Uti (game misconduct), 16:40; LaBate Uti (fighting), 16:40; Bournival Syr (game misconduct), 17:59; Masin Syr (fighting), 18:25; Chaput Uti (fighting), 18:25; Condra Syr (game misconduct), 18:54; Bodie Syr (tripping), 19:36.

3rd Period: 4, Utica, Wiercioch 6 (Cameranesi, Hamilton), 1:39. Penalties-No Penalties.

OT Period: No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties.

Shootout: Syracuse 1 (Verhaeghe NG, Joseph NG, Volkov NG, Stephens NG, Yan NG, Cirelli NG, McBain G), Utica 0 (Cassels NG, Carcone NG, Chaput NG, MacEwen NG, Hamilton NG, LaBate NG, Wiercioch NG).

Shots on Goal-Syracuse 8-9-8-7-1-33. Utica 13-10-12-0-0-35.

Power Play Opportunities-Syracuse 0 / 3; Utica 0 / 1.

Goalies-Syracuse, Pasquale 9-5-5 (35 shots-33 saves). Utica, Demko 18-7-6 (32 shots-30 saves).


Referees-Peter MacDougall (45), Stephen Thomson (15).

Linesmen-Mike Emanatian (69), Frank Murphy (29).