CEDAR PARK — A questionable penalty in overtime cost the Texas Stars in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Utica Comets.
Brett Ritchie was called for tripping by the Comets net. While the Utica player fell, it appeared he skated into Ritchie’s stick and tripped over the side of the net. The Stars forward attempted to get out of the way, but his stick was knocked out of his hands.
With the power play, Utica capitalized and completed a three-goal comeback when Cal O’Reilly scored 2:37 into sudden death.
Despite the loss, and the penalty, Ritchie had a strong return to the lineup. The 21-year-old right winger had missed seven games with a lower-body injury and when he practiced Monday it was the first time he had laced up a pair of skates since Nov. 14.
“It felt like three months,” Ritchie said earlier this week. “Honestly, I hate watching the games (when I’m out). I would just watch on the TV in the room. Maybe I’d go watch a period (in the stands), but that’s it.”
Ritchie had a pair of quality practices early in the week, but Stars coach Derek Laxdal still had an extra player skate in warm-ups and Wednesday morning he said he would make a final decision on the forward’s status that evening.
Ritchie opened the scoring early in the first period on a drive around the right face-off circle. He powered past two defenders and fired a wrist shot that beat Joacim Eriksson through the five-hole.
Five minutes later, he was on the ice for Texas second goal. He didn’t register an assist on the play, but his effort in the offensive zone with Scott Glennie helped Texas keep possession long enough for Maxime Fortunus to set up Justin Dowling in front of the net.
Ritchie started receiving power play time in the second period and cashed in with an assist on Travis Morin’s goal midway through the period. Ritchie knocked down a clearing attempt by a Utica penalty killer and shuffled a pass to Dowling, who found Morin waiting uncovered on the doorstep.
The goal helped Texas take a 3-1 lead into the third period, but Utica battled back to tie the game.
Will Acton scored 3:09 into the final stanza after the Comets held possession in the Stars zone. Less than two minutes later Bobby Sanguinetti scored on a power play blast from the point.