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Clarke's OT winner pushes Utica Comets past Monsters

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
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Posted 2/22/23

Standout forward Graeme Clarke helped make sure the Utica Comets' success continued against the Cleveland Monsters this season.

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Clarke's OT winner pushes Utica Comets past Monsters


The Utica Comets have had success against the Cleveland Monsters this season. 

Standout forward Graeme Clarke helped make sure that continued for the recently struggling Comets. 

Clarke scored 47 seconds into 3-on-3 overtime to help give the Comets a huge 4-3 win over the Monsters on Wednesday in the first of two games this week between the North Division foes at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

It was the third goal in as many games for Clarke, who also had an assist and is the first Comets player to eclipse the 40-point mark this season. Clarke, who had 42 points in 83 AHL games entering this season, has 41 in 50 this season.

In overtime, Andreas Johsson drove to the net and tried to slip it past Jet Greaves in front. Clarke collected the puck and got time in the low slot before he fired it over a sprawling Greaves. 

It was the fourth game-winner of the season for Clarke, who celebrated by going to one knee before being mobbed by teammates in celebration. Utica did it without forward Alex Holtz following a lower-body injury on Monday and then lost center Nick Hutchison following what appeared to be a high hit on a five-minute major penalty on Samuel Knazko. Utica is already without centers Brian Pinho and Nolan Stevens due to injury.

Nolan Foote (two assists; 23 total points) and Johnsson (goal, assist; 27 total points) also had multi-point efforts in support of Nico Daws, who was solid in finishing with 20 saves. 

The result snapped a seven-game (0-6-1) winless stretch for the 22-year-old New Jersey Devils prospect. It was his first win since Jan. 8. 

Brian Halonen added his 10th goal of the season in the first period and Samuel Laberge scored in the third period to briefly give the Comets a lead with 3:50 remaining.

The result also pushed the Comets to 6-0-0-0 against Cleveland this season. Utica has won seven consecutive meetings against Cleveland dating back to last season. 

The effort also helped snap a four-game road winless streak for the Comets, who won on the road for the first time since Jan. 27 at Syracuse. The Comets are 12-11-3-0 on the road this season. 

Most importantly, it was a crucial win for the Comets (24-20-5-2 overall), who snapped a four-game winless streak during a rough February. The team is 2-6-0-1 this month with one game remaining in the month, 

The win pushes Utica to 55 points, two more than Syracuse, which has played three fewer games. Teams two through six (Cleveland 22-21-4-2, 50 points) in the North Division are separated by five points as the push for the playoffs heats up. 

The win gave coach Kevin Dineen his 389th in the AHL, putting him in seventh place on the league’s career wins list. With his NHL victories, he has 445 career wins. 

Utica rallied from a 2-1 deficit early in the third period after Robbie Payne scored 13 seconds in. 

Johnsson tied the game slipping his ninth goal of the season past Greaves (31 saves) during a 5-on-3 advantage with 11:08 to play.

After Laberge’s goal, Justin Richards forced overtime with 2:33 to play. 

The teams also play at 7 p.m. Friday in Cleveland. 


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