Comets Score Late for Series Edge
by Mark Caswell, Jr.May 11, 2015
After giving away the series’ first two-goal lead, the Utica Comets defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 3-2 in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals at the Cox Convention Center. The Comets have now taken a 2-1 series lead.
Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) had a multi-point night for his second multi-point game in as many games. Mike Zalewski (1-0-1) and Alex Friesen (1-0-1) both tallied their first goals of the post-season, while Cal O’Reilly (0-1-1) continued to produce points for the Comets with his tenth assist in eight playoff games.
It was an eventful first period for Grenier as he made his way onto the scorer’s sheet twice within the game’s first 13 minutes of play. Grenier pitched in on the Comets first goal as he got the puck to Sven Baertschi who then set up Friesen with a pass across the crease. With an open net on the right side, Friesen guided the puck in at 1:20 to give the Comets the early 1-0 lead.
At 12:35, Richard Bachman gave up a second goal after Grenier obtained the puck infront of the net, spun around and popped the puck to the left of Bachman to make it a two nothing game. Both Bobby Sanguinetti and O’Reilly received assists on Grenier’s second goal of the series.
“Grenier was good again. He’s learning to play like a power forward. Goes to the net when he needs to and plays big in the corners,” said Head Coach Travis Green.
Just short of three minutes later the Barons answered back after Andrew Miller raced into the center high slot and snapped a shot that went bar down to get Oklahoma within one.
With no goals found in the second stanza, Oklahoma picked play right back up just three minutes into the third after Joshua Winquist buried a point-blank one-timer from Miller for the 2-2 equalizer. The power-play goal was a result of a tripping penalty taken by Friesen just one-minute prior to the goal.
Less than two minutes later, the Comets decided that overtime wasn’t an option and Zalewski redirected an Alex Biega shot past Bachman to give the Comets a 3-2. Brandon DeFazio was credited with the secondary assist.
“It felt great to finally score again,” said Zalewski. “Our line had a few chances throughout the game, so it was nice for us to contribute again.”
Jacob Markstrom made 20 saves for his fifth win in the 2015 playoffs.
“Marky was real good again tonight,” said Green. “We’ve come to expect that.”
The Comets went 0-for-5 on the power play, and are now 0-for-12 in the series. The penalty kill went 1-for-7 in the game to bring their series total to 1-for-12 (91.7%).
Now with the 2-1 series lead, the Comets will have a chance to extend their lead this Wednesday night during Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals which will once again be held at the Cox Convention Center for a scheduled 8 p.m. ET. Puck drop.
Three Stars: 1. UTI– Alexandre Grenier (1 Goal, 1 Assist) 2. OKC – Andrew Miller (1 Goal, 1 Assist) 3. OKC– Joshua Winquist (1 Goal)
Pivotal Game 3: After five combined periods of playoff overtime hockey through two games at The Utica Memorial Auditorium, the Utica Comets and the Oklahoma City Barons take their Round 2 series back to Oklahoma for Games 3, 4 and 5 at the Cox Convention Center and it all starts at 8 p.m. ET tonight.
The Barons who were seeded sixth in the playoffs are the lowest seed still participating in this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs, but after the pushing Game 1 into quadruple overtime, it’s apparent that seeds mean nothing when your eyes are set on the potential end result.
Regular Season: The Barons and the Comets only met twice during the regular season and split it down the middle, with each team winning on their home ice. The first game took place in Oklahoma City on December 2nd where the Comets fell 1-0 in a defensive battle that was decided in overtime. The Comets took their turn in the win column this past March with a 4-2 win at The AUD.
If you factor in their playoff games as well, the Barons and Comets continue to be dead even with two wins a piece dating back to their first meeting in December.
Who to watch – Barons: The Jones twins have been getting the Barons off on the right foot with both Kellen and Conner Jones scoring goals in the first two games. Kellen found the first goal in Game 1, and assisted on Conner’s goal in Game 2.
Richard Bachman has provided outstanding play in the crease and has given both teams something to talk about during team meetings. Through two games the netminder stopped 92 of the Comets 95 shots on goal, for a ridiculous 0.84 goals through the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs.
Who to watch – Comets: The captain Cal O’Reilly has made the offense click thus far in the series. After assisting on both the Comets goals on Friday night, he leads the entire AHL in assists with nine.
Jacob Markstrom continues to make his ‘home’ city proud by recording a new career-high in saves (65) during Game 1. Markstrom went on to win Game 2 for the Comets after stopping 22 shots and improved his 2015 playoff goals against average to 1.62.
Keep Your Friends Closer, and Your Enemies Even Closer: The Comets have now played 520 minutes and 15 seconds of playoff hockey. 94.5% (491:31) of that has been played with the game either tied or within a single goal.
Power Failure: On the power play the two teams have combined to go 0-for-12 during the Conference Semifinals. In the first round the Barons owned the league’s second best power play attack, and scored on five of their 14 chances (35.7%). The Comets finished in the middle of the pack with five goals in 24 chances (20.8%).
That’s a First: The Barons 2-1 OT loss to the Comets on Friday was the first time they have lost in the 2015 playoffs. It was also the first road OT loss in the Barons’ playoff history. The Barons were also the last club to lose in the Calder Cup playoffs, and remain the league’s only one-loss team.
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Game 4 – The series will continue this Wednesday as the Cox Convention Center will once again welcome the Comets back for another 8 p.m. ET match-up.