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Comets keep playoff hopes alive with shootout win

By UTICA COMETS

UTICA, N.Y. - It took a shootout, but the Utica Comets pulled out a thrilling victory, 4-3 over the Miwaukee Admirals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Sunday evening.  Utica made it four in a row in games that go to the shootout and with the win, the Comets moved over the .500 mark for the first time in franchise history at 29-28-3-4.

Alexandre Grenier, Pascal Pelletier and Brandon DeFazio each scored in regulation for the Comets and David Marshall netted the game winner during the shootout. Frank Corrado collected the first multi-point game of his professional career and Pelletier and DeFazio also scored during the shootout.  Joacim Eriksson finished with 20 saves on 23 shots during regulation, in addition to three of five during the shootout.

Milwaukee opened the scoring 4:57 into the first period, after a bit of bad luck went the Comets way. Both Utica defenseman, Frank Corrado and John Negrin, saw their sticks break, which gave Vinny Saponari extra space in front to bang a loose puck past Eriksson.  Defenseman Joe Piskula recorded the lone assist on the play, his 17th of the season.

Utica leveled the score 8:23 into the second, as they found the back of the net on the power play for the second straight game.  Alexandre Grenier potted his 17th of the season with a deflection in front of Milwaukee netminder Scott Darling. Corrado collected the primary assist off of his shot from the point and Pelletier also picked up a helper on the play.

Milwaukee reclaimed the lead with just 2:39 to play in the middle stanza, as Mathieu Tousignant collected a loose puck in the slot and beat Eriksson to the glove side to make it 2-1.  The goal, which was unassisted, was the sixth of the season and the 18th point for Tousignant.

A great passing play from the Comets led to a goal from Pelletier to knot the score at two, 4:02 into the second period.  The Labrador City, NFLD native took a perfect feed in stride from Marshall and beat Darling to the glove side.  The play was started by Darren Archibald, who collected his first point since Feb. 23 with the secondary assist.

The Comets took their first lead of the evening just over two minutes later, as Brandon DeFazio collected yet another goal, this with the man advantage, to put the Comets up 3-2.  A blast from the point by Corrado created a scramble in front, which DeFazio pounced on for his fifth goal over his past seven games.  Cal O’Reilly also picked up an assist on the play, his AHL leading 16th since he returned to the Utica lineup from injury on Feb. 21.

Despite a valiant defensive effort, the Comets could not hold onto their lead down the stretch, as Francis Wathier beat Eriksson to knot the score at three. Forward Austin Watson collected the lone assist on the goal, which snuck past a screened Utica net.

It all came down to the shootout as neither team was able to score during the overtime period. After Utica and Milwaukee each scored twice in the first seven total shooters, Marshall came down the middle and went off the crossbar and in to beat Darling and put Utica up 3-2.  Wathier tried to even the score as the Admirals’ final shooter but was denied by an emphatic glove save from Eriksson, which gave Utica the important second point.

The Comets begin a critical weekend on Friday, as the Abbotsford Heat come to town for the final time this season. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday evening.  The Comets then host fellow Western Conference playoff hopeful, the Iowa Wild, in a Sunday matinee, with a 3:00 p.m. faceoff.

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