Utica Comets Hang On to Defeat the Cleveland Monsters

The Utica Comets led 5-0 at the end of the first period, but had to survive a furious Cleveland comeback to preserve a 7-5 victory.

Friday night was a rollercoaster ride for the Utica Comets and Cleveland Monsters as both teams took turns dominating play during their matchup at the Adirondack Bank Center.

The Comets welcomed back a key piece of their lineup with the return of Graeme Clarke, who had not played New Year’s Eve after suffering an upper-body injury. He made his presence felt almost immediately as he opened the scoring at just under six minutes into the game when he fired a rocket past Cleveland goaltender Jean Francois Berube from the right circle. Less than three minutes later, Nate Schnarr blasted a one-timer past Berube from the slot off a feed from Fabian Zetterlund to make the score 2-0, and the floodgates were about to open.

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Less than four minutes after the Schnarr goal, Frederik Gauthier set AJ Greer up with a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone, and Greer finished it by wiring a shot past Berube to make the score 3-0. Two minutes later on the powerplay, Zetterlund set up another goal, this time sending a pass across the Monsters zone to Alexander Holtz, who blasted a one-timer into the Cleveland net to extend the Utica lead to 4-0. Greer capped the first period off with his second goal of the game when he scored on a shorthanded breakaway to send the game into the first intermission with the Comets leading by a score of 5-0.

Utica Comets vs Cleveland Monsters Weekend Series Preview

After a first period spent under siege, the Monsters pushed back in the second period and opened the scoring on a goal by Justin Scott. Utica answered back when Holtz slid a pass from the high slot to Jeremy Groleau, who launched a one-timer past Berube from the right circle to score his first goal as a professional and put the Comets back up by five. Undeterred, the Monsters scored again with twenty-five seconds left in the period Cole Fonstad let go of a shot from the top of the right circle that eluded Schmid and ended up in the net. The period ended with a score of 6-2 in favor of Utica, but the Monsters outshot the Comets 18-5 in the second period and had life heading into the third frame.

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The momentum Cleveland had from the second period carried over into the third, and they opened the scoring early in the period with a shorthanded goal of their own when Justin Scott scored his second goal of the game by snapping the puck past Schmid on a two on one to make the score 6-3. Scott helped get the Monsters within two seven minutes later when he got the puck to Fonstad off of a faceoff and he danced through the slot and lifted a backhand shot past Schmid for his second goal of the game. With just over five minutes to go Cleveland’s Robbie Payne was Johnny on the spot as he put home a rebound off a Jake Christiansen shot to make the score 6-5, and a rocking crowd at the Adirondack Bank Center was suddenly very anxious as the Comets once seemingly insurmountable lead was rapidly dwindling away. Cleveland continued to pepper Akira Schmid, but he shut the door, and an empty-net goal by Nolan Foote with six seconds left sealed the 7-5 victory for the Comets.

Notes: Cleveland outshot Utica 44-24…Cleveland was 1 for 4 on the powerplay, Utica was 2 for 4…AJ Greer led all Utica scorers with three points (two goals and one assist), Alexander Holtz had one goal and one assist, Frederik Gauthier, Fabian Zetterlund, and Reilly Walsh had two assists each…Justin Scott led all Cleveland scorers with three points (two goals and one assist), Cole Fonstad had two goals, Jake Christiansen and Tristan Mullin had two assists each…Alexander Holtz has a six-game point streak, Fabian Zetterlund has a four-game point streak, and Nolan Foote has a three-game point streak…Akira Schmid has won three of four games since his return to Utica…Utica has won all four meetings against Cleveland this season…The win was Kevin Dineen’s 350th of his AHL coaching career.

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