UTICA — The Utica Comets’ power play erased two one-goal deficits Wednesday night at home and Mikey DiPietro stopped 28 shots in a 3-2 win over the Laval Rocket.
The Comets were two-for-four on the power play. Their penalty killing unit allowed one goal in five Laval opportunities.
The win coupled with a loss by the Rochester Americans pushed the Comets into second place in the AHL’s North Division.
Jonah Gadjovich, Sven Baertschi and Reid Boucher were the goal scorers for the Comets.
Laval’s “really good start put us on our heels,” said Comets’ head coach Trent Cull after the win. His team, he added, did a “great job of battling back.” He called it a “gutsy effort.”
Laval jumped out to the early lead. Otto Leskinen fired a shot from the point that weaved through traffic and found the back of the net 2:38 into the game.
Gadjovich tied the game at one with a power play goal with 2:24 remaining in the first, grabbing a Lukas Jasek rebound on the doorstep and putting it home. Carter Camper earned his 350th career pro assist on the play.
Once again the Rocket took a one-goal lead, with Yannick Veilleux converting on a power play with 11:17 to play in the second period. Again the Comets scored on a power play goal to tie it up. This time Baertschi took a pass between the circles, made one move and lifted a backhand shot over Laval goalie Cayden Primeau. Assists went to Kole Lind and Boucher.
Cull said he challenged the specialty teams during the second intermission to keep making plays. He said the third period penalty kill did what they needed to do for success, including winning face-offs and clearing pucks out of the defensive zone. He also had to mix up the lines because defenseman Ashton Sautner did not return for the third period after an apparent wrist injury in the second.
“We talked about being positive,” Cull said of the locker room between periods. “They know if they’re not playing their best.” Boucher added: “We didn’t have our best stuff but we found a way to win, and that’s what good teams do.” He noted that the power play did some “good things,” but the “penalty kill still needs some work.” But it was an improvement over the effort Feb. 5 when the Laval power play went three-for-three in beating Utica 5-4 in overtime.
Utica grabbed its first and only lead of the game 36 seconds into the third period. Boucher forced a turnover in the Laval zone, grabbed the loose puck and fired a shot short side to put them up 3-2. “I threw my stick out, got a little lucky and got a piece of it,” he said after the game about the play.
The Comets had to kill off three more penalties in the game, including one with four minutes left where Laval pulled the goalie for a six-on-four advantage. But DiPietro turned aside all shots the rest of the way to secure the win.
“He’s earning some starts,” Cull said of DiPietro. “His game’s getting better and better.” Boucher called it a “very solid” effort. “He makes big saves at key times.”
The Comets are back in action Friday night on the road against the Syracuse Crunch. It’s the first of four straight road games before the team returns to the Utica Aud to host the Toronto Marlies on Friday, Feb. 28.
Bachman to Sweden
The Vancouver Canucks loaned goaltender Richard Bachman from the Comets to IK Oskarshamn of the SHL in Sweden, the organization announced Wednesday afternoon.
Bachman, 32, has appeared in three games with the Comets this season, with a 1-1-1 record, a 3.25 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
He has spent the last five seasons in Utica, compiling a record of 49-41-13 with a 2.89 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and two shutouts. His 105 appearances and 49 career wins both rank second in franchise history.