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Senators stifle Comets and score four straight to win

Steve Jones
Sports writer
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Posted 4/17/22

UTICA — In a tight game Saturday night, a misplay behind their net cost the Utica Comets dearly. The Belleville Senators used the turnover to score with 14 seconds left in the second period, which …

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Senators stifle Comets and score four straight to win

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UTICA — In a tight game Saturday night, a misplay behind their net cost the Utica Comets dearly.

The Belleville Senators used the turnover to score with 14 seconds left in the second period, which would prove to be the game winner. The Senators made a big move in the playoff race with the 4-1 win, moving up from sixth to fourth in the AHL’s North Division.

“It was an evenly matched game,” said Utica coach Kevin Dineen after the loss. Belleville always tries to play a grindy game and the team successfully limited Utica’s room to create offense, he noted. “That’s the game now.” He added, “We have to adjust to that. We expect this to be coming. Every game we play, that’s the nature of the game.”

The Comets got off to an inauspicious start when Brian Flynn took a delay of game penalty 14 seconds into the game but the team killed off Senators’ man advantage. The Senators had a number of quality chances in the period but they hit the post on a two-on-one, hit the crossbar, had a breakaway come to nothing and failed to capitalize on two power plays in the frame.

Utica goalie Mareks Mitens had a shutdown first period, stopping all nine Belleville shots. His effort in the game was in stark contrast to a tough game eight days prior in Belleville, when he was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots in five minutes in a game the Comets also lost 4-1.

The Comets fired the first salvo of the game when Nolan Foote scored his 14th goal of the season with 4:11 left in the first. He curled from right to left high in the zone then fired a shot back across his body, through traffic and over the glove of goalie Mads Sogaard. Robbie Russo collected his 30th assist of the season and Flynn got his 11th.

Belleville knotted up the score at 1-1 6:34 into the second when a shot by Viktor Lodin from the point got past Mitens. It was Lodin’s second goal of the season on assists from Andrew Agozzino and Scott Sabourin. The Senators killed off two penalties in the middle of the period then got the go-ahead goal on a turnover by Mitens behind the Comets’ net that led to a goal by Logan Shaw with 14 seconds left in the period. Clark Bishop earned an assist after grabbing the puck and feeding Shaw out front. The visitors took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission thanks to Shaw’s 12th goal of the season.

The Comets had a chance to get the game tied with just under seven minutes left in the game. With bodies piling up around the Belleville net and the puck loose in the tangle, the Comets couldn’t quite push the puck over the goal line. The Comets pulled the goalie for an extra attacker with two minutes left in the game but Belleville got an empty net goal by Sabourin and then Mark Kastelic scored on Mitens with seven seconds left to cap off the win.

“I wasn’t disappointed with our effort tonight,” Dineen said. “Right now the margin for error is very small.”

Sogaard stopped 25 shots in the win. Mitens had 18 saves for Utica.

The Comets are now 40-19-7-1. They remain in first in the North, the lone team in the division qualified for the playoffs as of Monday.

The Comets are on the road in Cleveland against the Monsters on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home next Friday against Rochester for the final home game of the regular season at 7 that night.

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