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FNF: Utica Comets at Lake Erie Monsters - AHL

The Comets playoff push continues.
In what goes down as another comeback for the ages, the Utica Comets earned an essential two points on Friday evening in Lake Erie, with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Monsters. With the win, the Comets currently have 75 points and sit just two behind eighth place Oklahoma City for the final playoff position in the Western Conference.

Jeremy Welsh and Cal O’Reilly each scored for the Comets, who improved to 33-30-5-4. Alex Friesen, who had an assist during regulation, potted the game-winning goal during the first round of the shootout, while Brandon DeFazio also scored in the shootout session for Utica. Joe Cannata collected his tenth victory of the season with 28 saves on 30 shots, in addition to a perfect four of four during the shootout.

Unlike when these teams met an evening ago, the first period saw a bit of scoring, as Michael Schumacher found the back of the net for the second consecutive game to make it 1-0 Lake Erie. A Colin Smith feed trickled through both the crease and Cannata, where Schumacher held off two Utica defenders and slotted home his 12th goal of the season. Defenseman Stefan Elliott had the secondary assist on the play.

Neither team found the back of the net in the second period, as the Comets possessed an 11-6 shots on goal advantage. Lake Erie had the period’s best opportunity with 50 seconds of 5-on-3 time, but the Utica penalty kill held its own.

The Monsters appeared to dim the Comets outlook midway through the third period, as Guillaume Desbiens beat Cannata with a slap shot from the blue line. Less than a minute after he exited the penalty box, Desbiens uncorked his eighth goal of the season to make it 2-0 Monsters. Elliott collected his second assist of the game on the play, while Mitchell Heard also had a helper.

The Comets were able to cut the lead in half less than five minutes later, as Jeremy Welsh remained hot with his seventh goal of the season. The equally hot Alex Friesen let a shot go from the point that Welsh got a stick on, to redirect past Pickard. The goal marked the second game in a row and the fifth time in seven games that Welsh has found the back of the net. Friesen now has 16 points over his past 16 games played. Defenseman Kent Huskins also collected an assist on the play.

It was another thrilling ending for the Comets, as the dynamic duo of O’Reilly and DeFazio combined for the tying goal with just 1:58 left on the clock. DeFazio drove down the right wing and hit O’Reilly in the slot with a feed, that the center would not miss, as he sniped the puck past Pickard to knot the score at two. The goal extended O’Reilly’s point streak to six games overall and nine games away from The AUD. Winger Patrick Kennedy also had an assist on the play.

After a tense overtime period that featured over a minute of shorthanded time for Utica, it all came down to a shootout at The Q. After Friesen opened the scoring in round one and DeFazio converted in round three, it all came down to Cannata. The Merrimack College graduate made a glove save on Elliott to seal the deal and the critical two points for Utica.

The Comets have a day off tomorrow, before they travel to Glens Falls for their final meeting of the season on Sunday with the Adirondack Phantoms. Puck drop is slated for 5:00 p.m. from the Glens Falls Civic Center, in yet another must win for Utica.
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