WILKES-BARRE, P.A. - The Utica Comets inched closer to the playoff line in the Western Conference as they gritted out another close game with a 2-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday evening at Mohegan Sun Arena. The win was the 38th one goal game this season for the Comets, the second most in the AHL.
Pascal Pelletier and Colin Stuart each scored for the Comets, who improved to 28-28-3-4 with the victory. Joe Cannata collected his eighth victory of the season with 22 saves on 23 shots, while Peter Mannino took the defeat with 27 stops for the Penguins.
Just as it was last evening, the first period went scoreless with neither team finding a way through. Utica held the shots on goal advantage at 7-3, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton not collecting a shot on net until the 3:07 mark of the period. Alex Grenier had potentially the period's best chance off of a feed from Cal O'Reilly, but Mannino held firm with one of seven stops. Cannata turned aside each of the three Penguin shots he faced.
The Comets opened the scoring midway through the middle stanza with a power-play goal at the 12:28 mark of the second. Pelletier took a feed from Alexandre Grenier on the back post and elevated a shot over an outstretched Mannino for the goal. Winger Brandon DeFazio also picked up an assist for Utica, his fifth point over the team's past six games.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took just under three minutes to respond, as veteran winger Chuck Kobasew beat Cannata to knot the score at one. The goal was Kobasew's third in as many games with the AHL's version of the Penguins this season. Center Andrew Ebbett and defenseman Brian Dumoulin collected the assists on the play.
The Comets found the game-winning goal at the 8:01 mark of the third period as Stuart remained hot with what went down as an even strength marker. After nearly four straight minutes of time with the man advantage had expired, Stuart put home a feed from Cal O'Reilly, who picked now has a point in eight of his past nine games. The goal was also Stuart's fourth over his past three games. Center Alex Friesen collected the secondary assist on the play, his sixth point in eight games during the month of March.
Cannata remained hot as he moved to 5-1-0 over his past seven starts. Dating back to a 3-1 victory on Jan. 18 against the Hamilton Bulldogs, Cannata has turned aside 181 of the 191 shots he has faced, good for a .948 save percentage. The Merrimack graduate has also won each of his past four starts outside of the state of New York.
The Comets are back in action tomorrow evening with a game of great magnitude against the Milwaukee Admirals. Milwaukee sits just three points over the playoff line in the Western Conference. Puck drop is set for 5:00 p.m. from the Utica Memorial Auditorium.