The Belleville Senators earned themselves a character win over a divisional opponent on Wednesday night, battling through questionable officiating, overtime and a shootout, to beat the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks) 5-4.
Filip Gustavsson made 32 saves, plus two more in the shootout and Adam Tambellini had the game winner in the breakaway contest.
The Senators had to kill nine penalties throughout the course of the game, including some lengthy two-man advantages leading to goals and coach Troy Mann says his team showed great resolve to grind out the victory.
It was an unlikely source getting Belleville on the board early, with Jonathan Racine burying his first as a Senator, wristing a shot past Ivan Kulbakov through a screen at 3:41.
Joseph LaBate got a few whacks at the side of the net a few minutes later but couldn’t increase the lead against his former team.
Utica’s best chance came at 13:15 when Zack MacEwen came off the bench on a line change a streaked in on Filip Gustavsson, but fired the puck high and wide.
The second period started with a back and forth flurry, with Michael Carcone beating Gustavsson on the power play to make it 1-1, before Ben Sexton fed Filip Chlapik from behind the net moments later and the Czech Republic native beat Kulbakov for his third of the season, to put Belleville back ahead 2-1.
Jack Rodewald would make it a two goal lead less than a minute later, taking a feed from Nick Paul out of the far corner and firing home a wrist shot from the slot.
The Comets would then get a pair of five-on-three power plays, almost back to back and tie the game 3-3.
Tanner Kero netted his first of the game after a cross-crease pass from Jonathen Dahlen and then Zack MacEwen tapped in a rebound not long after.
In between the goals B-Sens defender Pat Sieloff had a short handed breakaway but was stopped by Kulbakov.
The Senators would get back in front 4-3 with under 5:00 to play in the period, as Paul Carey walked out of the far corner and stuffed in his first as a Senator.
Mann told media post game that Carey had played his best game in a Belleville uniform.
The Weymouth, Massachusetts native says he was pleased to finally get off the mark and the win was a good way to start the week, with a rematch against the Marlies coming up this weekend.
Utica would get a trio of early power plays in the third, including another lengthy two-man advantage, where Kero scored his second of the night, on a near carbon copy of his first, to tie the game 4-4.
Gustavsson also stopped Carcone on a breakaway with about 2:30 to go, to earn at least a point and force the extra frame.
Both teams had chances in overtime but nobody could find the game winner.
Rudolfs Balcers and Tambellini scored for Belleville in the shootout, while Gabriel Gagne hit a post and Gustavsson stopped both Carcone and Dahlen for Utica.
The young netminder says he felt confident throughout the game, including the shootout, where he didn’t try to think too much about what moves his opponents would use.
He also says the numerous five-on-three situations can be tough for goaltenders.
Coach Mann also praised his goaltender for his response after being shelled by Toronto last weekend.
Mann added it was crucial to pick up a Wednesday win, with the team continuing its four game in three night stretch on Friday, against the Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) again, then against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders) on Saturday.
Those games will wrap up the five game home stand at CAA Arena and can be heard on 800 AM CJBQ, with pregame coverage at 6:50 p.m., for Eastern Overhead Doors and Deerhaven Farm and Garden.
You can click here to read the box score from Wednesday night and see highlights from the game below.