Pascal Pelletier has missed the playoffs only twice in his 10 professional hockey seasons.This is one of them.“It’s not a good feeling,” the Utica Comets veteran said after he and his teammates eliminated from Calder Cup contention in a 4-1 American Hockey League loss to the Rochester Americans Wednesday before 3,316 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Colton Gillies scored twice in the second period for the Amerks, who nailed down a playoff berth of their own with the win. Kevin Porter and Phil Varone scored the other goals and Andrey Makarov made 31 saves.
David Marshall scored the only Comets goal, with assists from Ray Kaunisto and Yann Sauve, and Joacim Eriksson made 18 stops.
The loss ended a desperate stretch of must-win games for the Comets, who have had a winning record – 33-24-4-3 – since going 0-8-1-1 in the first five weeks of the season.
“It’s been pretty hard,” said Pelletier, the team’s leading scorer (20-40 – 60). “But when you’re in it, you don’t really think about it. We’ve been trying to battle back from that horrible start.”
The Comets went last night’s game needing to defeat the Amerks and then win at home against Toronto Friday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday, with the hope that everyone else in contention would fall apart. Oklahoma City could have come close to securing a spot Wednesday, but lost 2-1 to Texas. They and Charlotte and Rockford all have two weekend games apiece to settle the eighth and final playoff spot.
That leaves the Comets with two so-called “meaningless games” to play.
“Everybody needs to be a pro about it,” Pelletier said. “People pay money, so play like you mean it.”
Which is what Comets Coach Travis Green expects.
“Part of being a pro is playing the right way,” he said. “This group has come a long way since the start of the season. I don’t expect that to change. It’s tough to play games when you know you’re out of it, but this will show me who they are. It’s part of character. Playing in tough games is not easy, but it will tell you what kind of players you have.”
Green did not have a problem with his team’s effort Wednesday, and thought the first period was excellent. Several turnovers led to goals in the second, though, and that turned the game.
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