Late goal helps Belleville edge Utica Comets
The Utica Comets have seemingly had the Belleville Senators’ number this season.
On Wednesday, the Senators pulled off a stunning result after the Comets won the previous five meetings against their North Division opponent.
After the Comets tied the game with just over a minute left, Lassi Thomson snuck a shot in with 13.1 seconds remaining in regulation as Belleville handed the Comets a 4-3 setback in a wild sixth and final regular-season meeting between teams.
It was a stunning regulation loss for the Comets, who trailed 3-2 after two periods despite scoring 25 seconds into the game.
After a third period largely controlled by Belleville, Nolan Foote scored his second of the game on a rebound with 1:11 left with six attackers on the ice that seemed like it would send the meeting to overtime.
Instead, Thomson got space near the top of the right circle and sent a shot through a screen in front — and past young goaltender Isaac Poulter. It was a needed win for a Belleville team sitting outside of one of the five playoff spots in the seven-team North when Wednesday began. Utica had scored a 4-3 overtime victory at home last Friday.
The result is a missed opportunity for the Comets, who have dropped back-to-back games on the season-long five-game road stretch. Utica closes the stretch with two key North games at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at Laval.
With Wednesday’s loss, the Comets (29-22-6-2, 66 points) remain in second place in the North by two points with 13 regular-season games remaining. The team got some good news in that third-place Syracuse fell in regulation to Providence and old friend Mikey DiPietro, who was making his first AHL appearance since April 2022. Utica and Syracuse — which has played two fewer contests — are scheduled to meet five more times before the end of the regular-season.
Timur Ibragimov also had a goal for the Comets, who lost alternate captain Joe Gambardella to an apparent injury after taking an unpenalized high hit in the second period. He didn’t play the third period.
Utica finished 0-for-4 on the power play, including two in the third period.
Poulter, making his fifth start in the last six games with Nico Daws still out, totaled 26 saves and snapped a personal three-game winning streak for the 21-year-old playing in his first pro season.
Former Comets forward Cole Cassels had four assists for Belleville (26-27-6-1, 59 points), which moved into fifth place in the North. The top five teams in the North qualify for the playoffs.
The fans had barely settled into their seats when the teams traded goals in a wild opening period.
Just 25 seconds into the game, Foote got time and space near the top of the left circle firing past the blocker of Dylan Ferguson (26 total saves) for his 17th goal of the season before Jake Lucchini answered 20 seconds later on a short breakaway.
Belleville appeared to take the lead with about 12 minutes remaining, though an official ruled no goal. After the game continued for about 60 seconds of game time, the officials finally decided to review. After taking a look on a handheld device, it was ruled a good goal.
Utica answered 1:10 later when Ibragimov tipped in the puck from in front following a shot from the point by Reilly Walsh to tie the game at 2.
Utica had the better opportunities in the second period – including a scramble in front of the Senators crease near the midpoint of the frame – but Belleville answered first.
Belleville took the 3-2 lead late on a power play when Roby Jarventie knocked in a bouncing puck following a cross-ice feed.
Captain Ryan Schmelzer, who appeared to injure his knee following an awkward collision in the second period of Sunday’s 5-2 loss at Lehigh Valley, did not play Wednesday.
He apparently avoided serious injury as Comets General Manager Dan MacKinnon said he could return this weekend.
Daws remains out with what had previously been described as “lower-body discomfort.” After initially being listed day-to-day and being out of the lineup since March 3, he remains out.
On Wednesday, MacKinnon said “probably closer to 10 days” when asked about Daws’ status. It is unclear when he might be an option for the Comets.
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