Yes, the Comets were out of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoff picture.
Still, this was an important game.
“People are always watching,” said Comets goalie Joe Cannata.
Friday, a sellout crowd of 3,815 – including long ago Utica Devils heroes Tommy McVie and Eric Weinrich – at the Utica Memorial Auditorium watched the Comets come from behind to edge the Toronto Marlies 3-2, a victory that ensured them of a winning season and deprived the Marlies of a chance to move up from third in the Western Conference playoff seedings.
Spectacular goaltending by Cannata – he stopped 37 shots, many of them eye-popping and some of them that might best be described as miraculous – and a pair of third-period goals by veterans Pascal Pelletier and Cal O’Reilly did the job for the Comets.
Yann Sauve scored the other goal, and Alex Mallet, David Marshall, Nicklas Jensen, Alex Friesen and Alex Biega – who took a slap shot to the face in the third period and had to be assisted from the ice and eventually taken to the hospital – had assists for the Comets, who will take a 34-32-5-4 record into the season finale against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday at the Aud.
The winning record discounts five overtime and four shootout losses, but the Comets have 77 points, more than half the 152 available over the 76-game schedule.
“We know the season was ended (in terms of playoff possibilities), but nobody likes to lose,” said Cannata, who has been outstanding the second half of the season and is 8-2 in his last 10 starts, allowing just 24 goals. “They (the Marlies) had something to play for. We tried to play spoiler.”
Comets coach Travis Green said the game was important for many reasons – the chance to finish over .500, to be a spoiler, to play for the fans and for each other – and the result, especially being down entering the third period, was gratifying for him.
“It says a lot about our group,” he said. “They’re resilient, determined. There is no quit in them.” Read more about the Utica Comets