Comets Claw Back into Finals Series
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Jun 10, 2015
Playing on home ice for the first time in the Calder Cup Finals made all the difference for the Utica Comets Wednesday night as they took Game 3 of the best-of-seven series and beat the Manchester Monarchs 3-2 in front of a rowdy sold out crowd at The Utica Memorial Auditorium. With the win, Utica now trails the series 2-1 and have guaranteed their fans a Game 5 this Saturday.
“Tonight was obviously the best game of the series,” said Comets Head Coach Travis Green. “We’ll need an even better game Friday.”
It was a multi-point night for the Comets captain and point leader Cal O’Reilly (1-1-2) after he scored his first goal of the postseason and recorded his 17th assist. Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) had an identical night to O’Reilly’s with a goal and an assist to keep the Comets one step ahead of the Monarchs. Things haven’t cooled down for Nicklas Jensen (1-0-1) as he buried his second in just as many games for his fourth of the postseason. Jacob Markstrom had another great bounce-back performance with a total of 32 saves on 34 shots.
Getting on the board first had favored the Monarchs up to this point in the series so the Comets took the initiative and made it 1-0 game at 5:45 into the first period. Adam Clendening and Mike Zalewski made the play possible for O’Reilly who received the puck just above the high slot. With a swift skate to the left circle, O’Reilly released a shot and beat Jean-Francois Berube glove-side for the game’s opening goal.
Shortly after the Comets first goal, Berube was injured on a play and was replaced in net by back-up goaltender Patrik Bartosak at 7:51.
The AUD was rocking once again just before the last minute winded down in the first period. This time Grenier got the tally as he raced down the right wing and put a snapshot on net to beat Bartosak glove side to make it a 2-0 game.
Manchester quickly answered just 37 seconds later after Derek Forbort took a shot from inside the slot. Markstrom stopped the initial shot, but Adrian Kempe positioned himself to the right of the post as he picked up the rebound and slotted it over the glove hand to get the Monarchs within one.
Utica took their two-goal lead right back just 6:18 in to the second period after a shot from the left side of the ice bounced off of a defender in front of Bartosak and slipped through to make it 3-1. Both Grenier and Peter Andersson tallied the helpers on the play.
There was another quick reply from the Monarchs as Kempe slipped one past Markstrom for his second goal of the night just 1:02 after the Comets third goal. Sean Backman and Nick Shore set up the 2-on-1 for Kempe as the Monarchs made it the third one-goal game of the series.
The score continued to stand at 3-2 as the Comets held on to their one-goal lead through the rest of the second and the entire third period.
Notes: The sold out crowd at The AUD on Wednesday marked the 11th straight sell-out this postseason…American Hockey League Most Valuable Player Brian O’Neill left the first period injured and did not return…The Monarchs are now 0-4 in the postseason when allowing the first goal
The Monarchs and the Comets will meet again this Friday at The AUD for Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at 7 p.m. as they hope to even the series 2-2.
Three Stars: 1. UTI – Cal O’Reilly (1 Goal, 1 Assist) 2. UTI – Alexandre Grenier (1 Goal, 1 Assist) 3. MCH – Adrian Kempe (2 Goals)
The FINALS at The AUD: The Utica Comets have dug themselves a bit of a hole that they must dig out of after dropping their first two games of the Calder Cup Finals on the road against the league’s top performing team, the Manchester Monarchs.
Tonight’s game will mark the first ever Calder Cup Finals game at The Utica Memorial Auditorium and the action begins at 7 p.m. in front of the first of three* raucous sold-out crowds in the infamous Utica barn.
If you weren’t one of the fans to secure a ticket to tonight’s Game 3, you can still catch every bit of action and every goal scored by streaming the game for free on AHLLive.com by creating an account and using the promo code CALDERCUP.
#WHITEoutTheAUD: 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.
History Speaks for Itself: After dropping Game 2 of the Calder Cup Finals, it was the first time the band of Comets dropped two consecutive games in the postseason. The last time the Comets dropped two games consecutively (barring a shootout loss in April) was on March 11th against the Chicago Wolves in overtime. Following that two game losing streak, the Comets went on to win the next 10 games and carried their winning streak all the way through until April 10th.
The Retributionist: Before Game 2, Jacob Markstrom had a perfect 7-0 record in games played after a loss in this year’s postseason. His record at home falls in the Comets favor with a total of six wins in 10 games. Even with back-to-back losses, the Swedish netminder has only let in five goals and at the same time has improved his goals-against-average to a 1.91 while his save percentage sits at an impressive .931.
Return with a Jensenance: After missing the previous three games before Game 2 in Manchester, Nicklas Jensen came back with a vengeance and made his presence known after tallying the Comets only goal for the night in the second period. In the 15 games Jensen has played in this postseason he has tallied three goals and one assist for a total of four points.
Silence Kills: Puck possession plays a huge role in the way these teams perform and it’s no secret that the Comets didn’t have the puck as much as they would have liked during Game 1 & 2 of the Finals. In both games, the Comets were outshot including the third period in Game 2 in which the Comets only got one shot off on net. If Utica can find more ways to keep the puck and get it to the front of the net, their chances bode well against a goaltender that has let in 2.25 goals per game during the postseason.
Who to Watch – Monarchs: Michael Mersch (13-18-21) tallied an assist and scored two of the Monarchs goals in Game 1 of the Finals this past Saturday night, which included a power-play goal and the overtime game-winner. Jordan Weal (10-11-21) is right behind Mersch in the points department for the postseason and has had an even bigger impact on the power-play with a total of four goals.
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.
Game 4 at The AUD: The Utica Memorial Auditorium will have the opportunity to see atleast one more playoff game this Friday when the two teams hit the ice for Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals. Unfortunately Game 4 and Game 5* have both been sold out but you can still catch the action on ahllive.com with free access using the promo code CALDERCUP.