UTICA – Penalties loomed large for the Utica Comets on Friday.

That wasn’t a good thing against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Parker Wotherspoon scored with 35.9 seconds left in overtime and Bridgeport rallied for a tight 4-3 victory over the Comets in the opener of a season-long five-game homestand.

“We played a really solid game. … There were some costly penalties that kind of hurt us, but I think we have a lot of good things to build off in that game,” said Zack MacEwen, whose 15th goal of the season on a nice spin move in front gave the Comets a 3-2 lead with 8:38 to play. “We should be able to keep our heads up.”

Despite the Comets having some of the better chances of the 3-on-3 overtime, Wotherspoon ended the contest when his shot from the slot evaded Ivan Kulbakov, who had made an impressive split-save less than 20 seconds earlier on Otto Koivula.

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The result was a tough setback for the Comets (20-18-2-1, 44 points), who rallied for their first lead in the third period against the Sound Tigers (22-11-4-2). The Comets – who controlled stretches Friday -- have dropped back-to-back games. The Comets remain a point back of North Division foe Syracuse, which visits Saturday.

“I thought we played well and competed hard,” Comets coach Trent Cull said. “Probably the downside, I would say, is that we took too many penalties and that cost us a little bit at the end.”

The Comets went to overtime for the first time since Dec. 16 after the Sound Tigers rallied with help from a four-minute power play following a high-stick from Wacey Hamilton.

Utica nearly got out unscathed, but Bridgeport made it 3-3 with 51 seconds remaining on the infraction when Yannick Rathgreb’s shot from the point got through traffic. Bridgeport finished 2-for-7 on the power play.

“We’re fortunate because I thought the (penalty kill) did a pretty good job for us tonight and created some chances for us, too,” Cull said.

It was the second loss in the last six games for the Comets, who rallied from one-goal deficits twice, but couldn’t close out the win.

Hamilton scored shorthanded in his sixth game since a return from extended injury absence and Tom Pyatt – acquired last week as part of a Vancouver Canucks trade -- added his first goal with the Comets. Brendan Gaunce extended a career-best point-streak to six games with an assist. Kulbakov finished with 27 saves.

“We outplayed them 5-on-5 all night, I thought. The costly penalties and they get a couple power play goals on a couple lucky shots and it is a different game,” MacEwen said. “That’s the way the game goes.”

Bridgeport needed all of 50 seconds – and two shots -- to take the lead in the first period on Chris Casto’s blast from the right point that flew past Kulbakov for his first of the season.

The Comets put some good pressure on Bridgeport and Jeremy Smith for the much of the rest of the period. One of Utica’s best chances nearly tied it with about 12 minutes remaining when rookie forward Jonah Gadjovich’s rebound trickled through the crease before Smith dove to stop the puck.

However, Comets tied it 1:20 into the second on a heads-up play by Hamilton. On the play, Smith came out to play the puck, which took a fortuitous bounce toward the net. Hamilton, who had skated in unchecked, quickly put his first of the season in past Smith.

After Tanner Fritz’s redirection helped Bridgeport – which had totaled eight shots through 30 minutes -- gain a 2-1 advantage with 8:53 left, the Comets evened the score with 27 seconds remaining with help from a forecheck at the end of a penalty kill.

On the play, Gaunce forced a turnover against Josh Ho-Sang in the right corner then sent an impressive cross-ice feed to Pyatt, who streaked down the left side

It was the first AHL goal for Pyatt – who has played more than 440 NHL games – since Feb. 21, 2010.

“We have a lot of positives,” MacEwen said. “We denied them a lot in our end. We had some good D zone, which led to our rush a lot.”

Note: There was a moment of silence before the game for the three children who died in a fire Friday in Herkimer. … Vincent Arseneau missed the last two games due to injury. He's unavailable Saturday. ... The Comets released defenseman Craig Wyszomirski from his professional tryout contract Friday. He had one assist in three games with the Comets. … Thatcher Demko bobbleheads were given out to the first 1,000 fans. It is the first of four bobbleheads that will be given away this season. … General Manager Ryan Johnson was in attendance.

 

Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4,

Utica Comets 3 (OT)

Bridgeport;1;1;1;1 - 4
Utica 0;2;1;0 - 3

1st Period-1, Bridgeport, Casto 1 (Ho-Sang, St. Denis), 0:50. Penalties-Bellows Bri (hooking), 5:15; Burroughs Bri (hooking), 15:39; Hamilton Uti (interference), 18:43.

2nd Period-2, Utica, Hamilton 1   1:20 (SH). 3, Bridgeport, Fritz 6 (Vande Sompel, C. Bourque), 11:07 (PP). 4, Utica, Pyatt 1 (Gaunce), 19:32. Penalties-Boucher Uti (holding the stick), 1:11; Wotherspoon Bri (delay of game), 5:37; Gaunce Uti (interference), 10:17; Brisebois Uti (tripping), 13:33; Lind Uti (roughing), 17:30; Wotherspoon Bri (roughing), 20:00; Hamilton Uti (roughing), 20:00.

3rd Period-5, Utica, MacEwen 15 (Dahlen, McEneny), 11:32 (PP). 6, Bridgeport, Rathgeb 3 (Ho-Sang, Bernier), 15:22 (PP). Penalties-St. Denis Bri (hooking), 10:48; Hamilton Uti (double minor - high-sticking), 12:13; Bernier Bri (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:22; Jones Bri (interference), 16:04.

OT Period-7, Bridgeport, Wotherspoon 5 (Fritz), 4:24. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Bridgeport 7-12-7-5-31. Utica 11-10-10-3-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Bridgeport 2 / 7; Utica 1 / 6.
Goalies-Bridgeport, Smith 11-6-2 (34 shots-31 saves). Utica, Kulbakov 7-7-2 (31 shots-27 saves).
A-3,917
Referees-Jason Williams (18), Beaudry Halkidis (48).
Linesmen-Neil Frederickson (68), Tory Carissimo (54).