Comets hold off Laval for key road win
LAVAL — The Utica Comets kept the host Laval Rocket at bay all game in a 3-2 win Friday that gave the team a little breathing room in second place in the North Division.
The Comets had lost their last two games but started off the series of two games in two days at Laval with a victory. The win came shortly after Syracuse lost in Bridgeport, so Utica now leads the third place Crunch by four points in the division standings. Utica has played two more games than Syracuse so far and has 12 left on its regular season schedule.
The Comets got a goal on their first shot of the game when Alexander Holtz rung the puck off the pipe and in. The shot was initially ruled no goal but a replay confirmed Holtz's sixth goal of the season at 3:25. Captain Ryan Schmelzer earned his 24th assist for his part. It was Schmelzer's return to the ice after missing the last game with an injury.
Just over halfway through the period the hosts tied the game at 1-1. Mitchell Stephens tipped the puck past Isaac Poulter on a centering pass by Gabriel Bourque as he cut to the net.
But with three minutes left the Comets regained the advantage when Brian Halonen cut from the left side wall to the net and looped a shot around Cayden Primeau as he crossed the goal mouth. Graeme Clarke and Aarne Talvitie got assists on Halonen's 16th goal of the season. Clarke got his team-leading 27th helper of the season and it was Talvitie's 10th.
Utica pushed its lead to two just under two minutes into the second. Sam Laberge lead a breakaway with Talvitie trailing. Laberge went right then sent a pass to Talvitie on the left side, who finished the play to make it 3-1. It was Talvitie's third goal of the season and Laberge and Reilly Walsh earned assists. Walsh tied Clarke for the team lead with 27. It was Laberge's seventh.
Just over five minutes into the third, the Rocket again crept to within a goal, this time on a score similar to Talvitie's. Pierrick Dubé followed Xavier Simoneau to the net and took pass across the goal before beating Poulter to get the score to 3-2.
Poulter picked up the win with a 31-save performance. That included a flurry of saves during a frantic final three minutes when Laval had the goalie out for an extra attacker.
Utica's penalty killing was on display against a strong Laval power play unit. The Comets denied the Rocket all three times on the man advantage. The Comets were themselves held off the scoreboard for all four of their power plays.
Utica improves to 30-22-6-2 this season.
The teams go right back at it at 3 p.m. Saturday in the same building.
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