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Amerks drop season opener to Comets

The Rochester Americans (0-1-0-0) opened their 66th season in the American Hockey League with a 6-2 loss to the intrastate rival Utica Comets (1-0-0-0) Sunday afternoon at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Sunday’s matchup was the first of 12 get-togethers between the North Division rivals this season. Rochester has collected at least one point in 24 of the last 40 games against Utica dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, going 17-16-2-5 over that span.

Rochester scored twice in the opening frame on the strength of goals from Jack Quinn and Casey Fitzgerald, while Sean Malone (0+2) registered his first multi-point outing of the season with two assists. Defensemen Oskari Laaksonen and Brandon Davidson both chipped in an assist in the defeat. Jimmy Schuldt, Ethan Prow, Linus Weissbach, Lukas Craggs, Josh Teves, Ryan MacInnis and JJ Peterka all made their Amerks debut.

Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen earned the start in the net and made 18 saves but suffered the loss.

Rookie forwards Alexander Holtz (2+0) and Tyce Thompson (0+2) both recorded a pair of points for Utica while Fabian Zetterlund produced two assists. Reilly Walsh recorded a career-high three-point night as he chipped in three helpers. Ryan Schmelzer, Nikita Okhotiuk, Aarne Talvitie and former Amerk Brian Flynn rounded out the scoring.

Utica’s rookie netminder Nico Daws made his first official professional start, getting the win thanks to a 25-save effort. After surrendering a pair of goals in the first 20 minutes of play, Daws blanked the Amerks over the final 40 minutes of regulation.

A wild back-and-firth first period saw the teams combine for five goals and featured three lead changes.

After the Amerks were unable to capitalize on their first power-play off the season early in the opening period, Quinn redirected a point shot from Laaksonen near the right face-off dot to give Rochester an early 1-0 lead. With the goal, Quinn has recorded four points (1+3) over his last four games dating back to the end of the 2020-21 slate.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Utica countered back when Okhotiuk evened the score at the 7:16 mark of the first.

Later in the frame, Malone, seconds after corralling a wide shot from Davidson, circled around near the top of the Comets blueline before dishing a pass to Fitzgerald at the right point. With bodies screening Daws, Fitzgerald’s shot found its way through traffic and beat the netminder to regain Rochester’s lead with 5:20 left in the first period.

Much like they did following Rochester’s first tally, Utica responded by flipping a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead going into the first intermission with back-to-back goals 43 seconds apart from Schmelzer and Holt.

The Comets carried the momentum into the second with Holt seemingly picking up where he left off as he wired a one-timer under the crossbar just 1:29 into the middle frame to put Utica up by a pair with his second of the night. The power-play goal was scored while the teams were skating four-on-three.

Utica took a 4-2 lead into the final period of regulation and added two more tallies from Talvitie and Flynn to seal the victory.

The Amerks return home to on Friday, Oct. 22 to host the Syracuse Crunch in their 2021-22 Home Opener at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the first of 12 meetings between the cross-town foes this season and will be carried live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester as well as AHLTV.