Pascal Pelletier scored a power play goal with assists from Henrik Tommernes and Cal O’Reilly just 24 seconds into overtime, and the Comets defeated the Lake Erie Monsters 3-2 Thursday in Cleveland.
The Comets have 73 points with five games to play in a desperate six-team battle for the last American Hockey League Western Conference playoff spot, currently held by the Charlotte Checkers with 77 points.
It was sixth 3-2 decision in seven games between the teams, with the Comets winning four times. Utica has a 4-3 edge overall in the series, with concludes with another game at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Pelletier, Utica’s scoring leader (19-40 – 59), connected from his favorite spot in the right faceoff circle as the Comets skated 4-on-3. They got the extra man when Lake Erie’s David van der Gulik was called for tripping as the final horn sounded in regulation. The Monsters had tied the game on Michael Schumacher’s goal at 15:42 of the third.
Brett Clark scored early in the second period to give Lake Erie the first lead, Brandon DeFazio tied it with his 17th goal at 14:17 with help from O’Reilly and Patrick Kennedy, and the Comets took the lead on Jeremy Welsh’s goal at 13:38 of the third. Kellan Lain and Alex Friesen assisted on that one.
Schumacher scored on the power play shortly after that, and then the teams headed to the overtime.
Joacim Eriksson made 19 saves for the Comets. Sami Aittokallio made 29 stops for Lake Erie.
After tonight’s (Friday’s) game, the Comets get a night off before traveling to play the Phantoms in Glens Falls at 5 p.m. Sunday, then return to the Utica Memorial Auditorium for games with Rochester Wednesday, Toronto Friday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday to finish the regular season.
In other news
Rob Esche knows Trevor Linden a bit.
They played against each other in their National Hockey League days, although the Utica Comets president and former goalie can’t recall if Linden, who collected 375 goals in a 22-year career, ever put the puck past him.
“I can’t remember,” Esche said. “I’m sure he did.”
Esche also is sure Linden’s appointment as president of the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday morning is a good thing for the Comets, Vancouver’s American Hockey League affiliate. Linden, among British Columbia’s most popular athletes, past or present, was named to the position a day after the Canucks fired general manager Mike Gillis. Vancouver, coached by John Tortorella – briefly a member of the Mohawk Valley Stars during training camp in 1983 – bowed out of playoff contention earlier in the week.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the Vancouver organization,” Esche said. “It’s been terrific working with them all season long.”