Comets Leave OK City with Series Lead
by Mark Caswell, Jr.May 14, 2015
A trip to the Western Conference Finals is just one win away for the Utica Comets after they took a 3-2 series lead over their second round opponent, the Oklahoma City Barons on Thursday night. The Comets 3-1 victory at the Cox Convention Center was just their fourth game of the playoffs that was decided in regulation.
“We were really good to start the game,” said Head Coach Travis Green. “When we went up 2-0 they (Barons) pushed and we stuck to our game plan and didn’t panic. I thought we played a really good game tonight.”
Wacey Hamilton (1-0-1), and Peter Andersson (1-0-1) both lit the lamp for the first time this postseason as they helped the rest of their team rebound from dropping Game 4 in Oklahoma City. Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) also helped secure the win as he scored his third goal of the series. Jacob Markstrom carried his team through the thick of it all including saving 15 of the 16 third period shots thee Barons peppered him with, for a total of 33 saves.
The first period was all about possession for the Comets and it worked to their benefit after they found the first goal of the night at 12:13. Bobby Sanguinetti set up Hamilton after his shot from the right boards resulted in a rebound. Bachman stopped the initial blast, but Hamilton was there to collect and score the rebounded puck to give the Comets the early lead.
“It was a monkey off my back and our line’s back,” said Hamilton. “We’ve worked hard and finally got rewarded for our hard work.”
The Comets offensive dominance carried over into the second period. Alex Friesen created a great heads-up play and dished the puck over to Andersson who was left wide open on the left side of the ice. Andersson proceeded to walk in closer, picked his spot, and snapped it past Bachman to double Utica’s lead. Nicklas Jensen tallied the secondary assist on Andersson’s eventual game-winning goal.
With only a combined total of six penalty minutes taken before the final three minutes of the third period, the Comets hit an unlucky patch as Nicklas Jensen was called at 17:04 for a holding penalty. With Jensen in the box, Brad Hunt hammered a slapshot from the left point that ripped through a screen and into the net to break up Markstrom’s shutout bid.
At 19:44 Grenier put the game to bed as he broke free of the defense and guided the puck all the way to the empty net for the final score of 3-1. Kent Huskins found the scorer’s sheet with an assist on the Grenier goal, as well as Brendan Gaunce, who tallied his fifth point of the postseason with his second assist of the game.
“Today was huge for our team,” said goaltender Jacob Markstrom. “Yesterday was not our best game but good teams respond and our whole team responded tonight.”
The Comets are now a perfect 4-0 in games following a loss in the playoffs.
Now with the series lead, the Comets will be looking to close it out and put this series in the past once they return to The Utica Memorial Auditorium this coming Monday for Game 6 at 7 p.m.
Three Stars: 1. UTI– Jacob Markstrom (33 Saves, Win) 2. UTI – Peter Andersson (1 Goal) 3. OKC– Brad Hunt (1 Goal)
Game Night in OKC: Tonight’s pivotal game 5 will swoop in as a mystery to anyone that has been following the second round series between the Utica Comets (#1 seed) and the Oklahoma City Barons (#6 seed). Last night’s game was the first of which we have seen either goaltender let in more than three goals in a single game during what was literally a scoring anomaly for both teams.
Series Breakdown: The series began on May 7th at The Utica Memorial Auditorium, but Game 1 didn’t technically end until May 8th as the game saw a multitude of overtime periods; four to be exact. The game didn’t work out in the Comets favor as Game 1 was decided by a blind shot from Kellen Jones which snuck through Jacob Markstrom for a 2-1 final just 16 seconds into the fourth overtime period.
Less than 24 hours later, the Comets dropped the puck again at The AUD, but came out with the win this time in a single overtime game that saw Alexandre Grenier tip in the game-winning goal.
With a 2-3-2 playoff format, the Comets then had to shift their series to Oklahoma City where again the next two games would be split down the middle. On May 11th, the Comets walked away with a 3-2 regulation win but fell just two days later in Game 4 after a combined total of 11 goals were scored through three periods.
It’s a Killing Tragedy: The Comets had one of the best penalty kills on the road during the regulation with an 87.1 percent success rate. During Wednesday night’s game, that all went out the window as the Comets let four goals in on just the penalty kill alone. Ironically, the Barons had a much better power play on the road during the regular season with a finishing rate of 21.6 percent compared to their 15.1 percent on home ice.
Who to watch – Barons: Brad Hunt (1-6-7) is apparently is a force to be reckoned with because after Wednesday night’s game the forward now has a total of six assists, all of which have come on the power-play alone. Jujhar Khaira (3-0-3) will be coming off of a two-goal night when tonight’s game begins, so one may expect him to be fired up for back-to-back games on home ice. Darnell Nurse (0-3-3) made his first playoff appearance in Game 4 and has all but guaranteed himself a spot in the line-up after assisting on all of the Baron’s even-strength goals.
Who to watch – Comets: Alex Friesen (2-4-6) has lit the lamp in back-to-back games for the Comets and has assisted twice so far on the Comets struggling power play in nine postseason games. Brendan Gaunce (3-0-3) has been the only one to find multiple goals on the power play during this playoff run.
Cal O’Reilly (0-10-10) tallied another assist on Monday night in Game 3 which brings post-season points average to a 1.25 through 10 games.
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.
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Game 6 – The time has finally come to where the Comets regain home ice advantage as the Round 2 best-of-seven series shifts back to The AUD this coming Monday at 7 p.m.