ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Kansas City player-coach Leo Gibson did all he could to help his Comets claim their first win on the road this season.
But a sudden-death overtime goal by J.T. Thomas gave the host St. Louis Ambush an 8-7 victory Sunday at the Family Arena.
Gibson had a hat trick and three asists, but it was not enough as his 1-2 Comets suffered their second sudden-death overtime loss this season.
The Comets needed a late comeback as the Ambush took a 4-1 lead in the first quarter.
St. Louis’ Tony Walls scored a power-play goal to put the Ambush up 1-0 midway through the first quarter.
Two minutes later, Kiel Williams broke the ice for the Comets. John Sosa connected with Gibson, who found Williams streaking through the center of the field. Williams’ shot ricocheted off an Ambush foot and into the back of the net.
The scoring floodgates then opened for the Ambush as they scored the next three goals to take the 4-1 lead.
“We have to start off stronger, because it is so exhausting to play catchup for an entire game,” said Gibson, as the Comets trailed the entire contest. “We made the strong comeback, but we wouldn’t have to make that comeback if we had gotten off to a better start.”
The Ambush picked up a blue card at the onset of the second half, giving the Comets the break they needed to stop the skid. Lucas Rodriguez eventually scored off an assist from Gibson to make it 4-2.
Gibson scored to make it 4-3 with 11:10 left until half time.
A pass from goalkeeper Steven Hamersky to Williams resulted in a tie as Williams headed the ball to Gibson, who put it in the back of the net to knot the score at 4-all at the 3:24 mark of the third quarter.
St. Louis made it two-for-four on power plays, as Junquiera scored from the top of the key while Kansas City was down a man, to reclaim the lead. Just before the end of the third quarter, Jonathan Pachar gave the home team some cushion, hammering a shot past Hamersky off a one touch to secure a 6-4 lead.
Nearly 2 1/2 minutes into the final quarter, Gibson scored his third goal for the hat trick to make it 6-5. Sosa chucked a ball into the attacking end, and Gibson shot it off the bounce with his back to the goal, catching St. Louis goalkeeper Paulo Nascimento unprepared.
The Ambush then scored a goal to make it 7-5 as Matt Lewis headed a ball off the boards straight into the air in front of the goal and Walls tapped it in from point-blank range.
Seconds later, Gui Gomes scored off a bounce pass from Ignacio Flores, drawing Kansas City within 7-6 with just over 11 minutes to play in regulation time.
Hamersky then got to play some offense, beating two Ambush attackers to give the Comets numbers in the attacking end. Kansas City executed some precise passing in the box, ending with Sosa scoring off a Gibson assist right in front of the net to tie the game at 7-7 with five minutes to play.
Thomas finally ended the marathon match as he scored off a set piece play, burying the game-winner at the 5:48 mark of overtime.
“The guys played hard, and I’m getting more and more accustomed to being a coach,” said Gibson, who was an assistant player-coach last year before taking over as the head coach this season. “We fought hard, I can never question our work ethic, but we need to find a way to play better earlier in the game.”
Mark Saxby will return to the net for Comets, as he has served a three-game suspension for an incident that took place in a playoff loss to Milwaukee last season.
“Steven has done an outstanding job,” Gibson said, referring to the Newton, Kansas, police officer who takes vacation days to play for the Comets, “and it will be nice to have Mark back with our team.”