Barons Force Game 7
by Mark Caswell, Jr.May 18, 2015
The Western Conference semifinals will come down to a winner-take-all Game 7 after the Utica Comets fell 2-1 to the Oklahoma City Barons on Monday night at The Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Barons have now forced a Game 7 after tying up the best-of-seven series at three games apiece.
Sven Baertschi (1-0-1) was the only Comet to score in the contest. Richard Bachman once again proved his worth in the crease by stopping 33 of the 34 shots the Comets barraged him with.
With elimination lingering in the back of their minds, the Barons scored the first goal of the game just 5:23 into the opening period. Brad Hunt made a one-goal lead a reality after singlehandedly barging in towards the left of Jacob Markstrom and flipped a shot that snuck through Markstrom’s legs and trickled past the goal line.
It wasn’t until the third period, but Oklahoma did it again at 8:26 on what the Comets misinterpreted as a potential icing call. With defense on the lax, Ryan Hamilton quickly popped the puck over Markstrom’s glove hand. The puck darted over Markstrom’s glove for the two-goal lead and his fifth of the playoffs.
It was a little delayed but the Comets finally answered back with less than six minutes left in the game. Alex Friesen gave his team some hope after releasing a shot from the upper slot that initially looked as if Bachman swallowed it up. With Baertschi closing in on the blue paint, the puck re-appeared and the left-winger got a piece of it just before it trickled past the left post to make it a 2-1 game.
Even after chopping their deficit in half, the Comets couldn’t find another one and ended the game with their eighth one-goal game of the playoffs.
The series will finally be decided this Wednesday night at The AUD with the puck slated for 7 p.m.
Three Stars: 1. OKC– Richard Bachman (33 Saves, Win) 2. OKC – Brad Hunt 3. UTI– Sven Baertschi (1 Goal)
Tonight at The AUD: The Utica Comets can punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals with a win tonight vs. the Oklahoma City Barons in tonight’s Game 6 of Western Conference Semifinals. Puck drop at the SOLD OUT Utica Memorial Auditorium is slated for 7pm.
After finishing up at The AUD after a two game stint to start the series on May 8th, the Comets proceeded to take the series lead by tallying two victories at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma was able to walk away win one win after an extremely atypical performance by both goaltenders, which led to a 7-4 final on May 13th.
WHITEout Effect: The Comets asked that fans WHITEout The AUD for all playoff games, and boy are they off to a hot start. The WHITEout serves as a rallying cry, and shows support to the players wearing WHITE on the ice. Add the WHITEout intimidation factor in with the ear-splitting noise the Comets faithful brings to the game, and you have a decided edge in favor of the home team. The atmosphere created by the “5th Line” is a unique element, and Utica fans will once again need to make their presence known throughout the playoffs just like they have all season. During sellouts at The AUD the Comets won 18 out of 29 games (62%) with the help of their fans.
Who to watch – Barons: Right-winger Jujhar Khaira (3-1-4) has been present and accounted as he has gotten on the scorer’s sheet several times during their second round match-up against the Comets. His three goals on eight shots is tied for third in the league in shooting percentage at 37.5%.
Richard Bachman will be looking to get his team back on track with a win tonight after losing three of the last four games in the series. The goaltender’s numbers are still far from average as he boasts an outstanding 1.69 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage, both of which rank as second amongst AHL playoff goaltenders.
Who to watch – Comets: It wasn’t a surprise when the Comets named Cal O’Reilly the team captain at the start of the 2014-2015 regular season and his continued hard work and team play during the Comets Calder Cup playoff run is just an example of what this team is all about. O’Reilly (0-10-10) currently leads the entire team in points whilst tallying assist after assist to help his team rack up the goals. The center has also stayed out of the box with just two penalty minutes in 10 playoff games.
Spread the Love: The Comets well-balanced offensive attack features 13 players (12 forwards, 1 defenseman) who scored double-digit goals this season, which is the most in the American Hockey League this season.
Stay Out of the Box: In Game 4 the Barons showed off their league-best power play (32.4%) and exploded for four goals in six opportunities. In this series, all those power-play goals have come at the Cox Convention Center as the Comets penalty killing unit is a perfect 5-for-5 at The AUD.
Going the Way of the Dinosaurs: This is the eighth time in Barons history the club has played in an elimination game. However, this time the stakes are much higher as a loss eliminates Oklahoma City from American Hockey League existence. All seven previous elimination games for the franchise have occurred on the road with the team collecting a 3-4 record. This is the third Game 6 in Oklahoma City history. Previously they defeated Grand Rapids in the 2013 Western Conference Finals, and lost to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the then best-of-seven first round back in 2011.
Prepare the Nerves: Utica and Oklahoma City got to the playoffs this year by being two of the league’s top “cardiac” teams. Utica paced the league in one-goal games (43), and wins in one-goal games (24-10-7-2). OK City only played in 33 one-goal games, but 22 of those games needed overtime to settle things. The Barons’ won 14 of those 22 games en route to the 2015 playoffs.
The Only Show in Town: The Comets-Barons match-up is the only Conference Semifinals series still ongoing as the three other series have wrapped up. In the Eastern Conference Semis, the top-seeded Manchester Monarchs dispatched of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in just five games and will face off against the Hartford Wolfpack, who needed six games to defeat the Hershey Bears. The Grand Rapids Griffins, who took down the Rockford IceHogs in five games, awaits the winner of this series in the West.
Complete Coverage: Can’t listen to Brendan Burke or watch the game on AHL Live? No problem! Just follow us on @UticaComets or @CometsInGame on Twitter and we’ve got you covered with live up to the minute updates and instant videos of all the Comets goals.
#BuiltForThisMoment: It’s your turn to show us how you celebrate during a Comets game, whether it’s at The AUD, on your couch or at the bar. Submit your videos by posting them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and including the hashtag #BuiltForThisMoment for a chance to have your video after the game concludes.
Mystery Game– One thing is for sure, and that is there will be at least one more game at The AUD. Depending on the outcome of tonight’s game, the Comets will either be forced to play a Game 7 this Wednesday night, or they will advance to the Western Conference Finals which is slated to begin either later this week, or early of the next.