COMETS, MARLIES MEET IN GAME ONE OF NORTH DIVISION SEMIFINALSApr 21, 2018
Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets battle the Toronto Marlies in Game One of the Division Semifinals in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Puck drop is at 4 p.m.
Last Game:The Utica Comets topped the Binghamton Devils 4-3 in overtime Sunday evening at the Adirondack Bank Center. Jan Mandat put the Devils up 1-0 with a shot that trickled through Thatcher Demko. Jonathan Dahlen tied the game at one two and a half minutes later. Nick Lappin regained the Devils lead with 9:35 remaining in the first period. Patrick Wiercioch tied the game at two at the 18:14 mark of the opening frame. Michael Chaput gave the Comets their first lead of the game five minutes into the second period. Austin Cangelosi tied the game at three with a shorthanded goal. Lukas Jasek scored the game-winning goal with 1:31 remaining in overtime to earn the win. Demko finished with 30 saves to improve his record to 25-13-7. The win broke the Comets’ record for wins in a single season by a goaltender.
Head-to-Head: This is the first time the Comets and Marlies will meet in the postseason. Toronto claimed the regular season series 5-2-1, but the Comets won the final matchup 3-2 in a shootout on April 6. The Marlies outscored the Comets 24-22 in eight games.
Scouting the Marlies: Toronto finished the regular season with a record of 54-18-4, good for first in the North Division and the entire league. They ended the 2017-18 campaign with a 4-3 win over the Belleville Senators. Ben Smith is the leading scorer with 59 points, followed by Chris Mueller with 52 points. Garret Sparks leads the goaltending tandem with a record of 31-9-2, a 1.79 goals-against average, and .936 save percentage.
Just Killin’ It: The Comets will look to continue their dominance on the penalty kill against the Marlies. Utica has killed off 20 of their last 21 penalties against Toronto and has not allowed a power play goal against in four of their last five games against the Marlies. The Comets’ penalty kill is ranked second in the league at 85.5%.
Immediate Impact: In their short time with the Comets, Tanner MacMaster and Lukas Jasek have helped the cause tremendously. Both players notched seven points, with Jasek scoring three goals and four assists in six games, and MacMaster tallying two goals and five assists in 13 games. In addition, MacMaster (2-1-3) and Jasek (1-2-3) have collected three points each against the Marlies this season.
Renaissance Man: Patrick Wiercioch looks to carry his outstanding season into the playoffs. Wiercioch led all Comets defensemen in points, goals, and assists with 10 goals and 27 assists for 37 points, which set career highs. The veteran defenseman also racked up five points (3-2-5) in six games against Toronto in the regular season.
Goaltending Duel: Thatcher Demko and Marlies netminder Garret Sparks will likely play a big factor in this series. Demko finished the season with a 25-13-7 record, a 2.44 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and one shutout. Sparks led the league in wins (31), goals-against average, (1.79) and save percentage (.936). He also ranked second with six shutouts. Demko has won three straight starts against the Marlies and Sparks has not lost to the Comets yet this year.
Next Game: The Comets are back at it tomorrow for Game Two against the Marlies. Puck drop at Ricoh Coliseum is at 4 p.m. The game can be heard on 94.9 KROCK and viewed on AHL Live.