Comets Face Elimination
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 23, 2016
The Utica Comets season has been pushed to its furthest possible point after a 5-1 loss to the Albany Devils on Saturday evening at the Times Union Center. The Devils four goal second period was sparked by a controversial short-handed goal that came after Comets goaltender Richard Bachman was knocked to the ice on what appeared to have been a goaltender’s interference.
Cole Cassels (1-0-1) and Michael Pereira (0-1-1) each picked up their first career Calder Cup Playoff points on the Comets lone goal of the game. The Comets have now lost back-to-back playoff games for the second time in franchise history, with the first time coming during Games 1 and 2 of the 2015 Calder Cup Finals.
Cassels got the Comets off to a roaring start when he found the back of the net halfway through the first period. After the line of Michael Pereira, Brandon Marino, and Cassels applied heavy offensive pressure, Cassels sniped a wrist shot over Wedgewood’s glove to give the Comets their first lead of the series.
The lead did not last long as the Devils scored their first of five unanswered goals seven minutes later when Ben Thomson banked a shot in off of Bachman’s leg pad.
The Devils kicked off their four goal second period with a power-play goal four minutes in.
Then the game spiraled out of control and away from the Comets.
While short-handed, the Devils hemmed the Comets into their own zone as they looked to set-up the breakout. Jim O’Brien kicked the skate out from under Bachman, and sent the goaltender sprawling out on his stomach. The puck squirted from behind the net and into the slot, where Reid Boucher jammed the puck in to the net before Bachman could recover his position in the crease. The referees conferenced for a short amount of time, and deemed the goal a good goal.
On the ensuing face-off, the Comets rushed Wedgewood and picked up the lone penalty after a scrum on the ice. With Ehrhardt in the box for an Unsportsmanlike Conduct minor, the Devils scored 40 seconds after their previous goal to extend their lead to 4-1.
An extra insurance goal in the second period’s waning minutes was the final insurance goal the Devils would get on their way to grabbing a 2-0 series lead.
The series now shifts to Utica for Game 3 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. It’s do or die for the Comets, as Albany just needs one more win the claim in the series. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm, where Comets fans are being asked to wear white and WHITEout TheAUD.
Tonight’s Game: Game 2 of the North Division’s Semifinals round between the Utica Comets and the Albany Devils takes place today at 5pm at the Times Union Center in downtown Albany. After dropping Game 1 last night, the Comets can take home ice advantage with a win tonight.
Last Game:The Utica Comets quest for the Calder Cup did not have the ideal start out of the gate as they lost 3-2 to the Albany Devils at the Times Union Center on Friday night. The Devils outshot the Comets 29-14, and scored a goal in each period en route to acquiring a 1-0 series lead in the North Division Semifinals.
Darren Archibald (1-0-1) and Jordan Subban (1-0-1) each potted a goal, and Ronalds Kenins (0-2-2) enjoyed a multi-point with two helpers. Richard Bachman made the start and made 26 saves in the loss.
Scouting the Devils: The Devils offense entered the series with scoring from all over, in all situations. Mike Sislo led the team with 27 goals, three short-handed goals, five game-winning goals, oh, and he led the AHL with 14 power-play goals during the regular season. The team’s leading point-scorer with 54 points, rookie left winger Matt Lorito, is all over the rookie stat leaders in points (sixth), power-play assists (4th with 19), and power-play points (3rd with 24). The 2015 AHL MVP, Brian O’Neill, finished fifth on the team in points (13-19-32), despite playing in just over half of the team’s games (42). He also had five game-winning goals to tie Sislo for the team lead. If you’re looking for a wart for this seemingly perfectly built team, well, their 96 goals on the road ranks them as the ninth worst team in producing goals.
Archibald Strikes: In his first playoff game since suffering a season-ending injury in Game 1 of the second round series with the Oklahoma City Barons last season, Comets forward Darren Archibald netted his second Calder Cup Playoffs goal. His first goal, was his Game 3, overtime game-winning goal in the first AHL Playoff game at The AUD on April 29, 2015.
Who Gets the Nod Tonight?: The decision is a tough one for coach Travis Green. Bachman or Cannata. Statistically this season Joe Cannata played in five more games than Bachman, and owned a slight edge over Bachman in goals against average, and save percentage. But that statistical edge is razor thin. If experience is the key focus for starts, Bachman’s career 1.99 goals against average in the AHL’s second season entering the series is hard to ignore. Playing on the road has not been generous to either netminder as both have seen their numbers balloon up outside The AUD.
Start Fast: Getting off to a fast start is an unquestioned key for any team, especially this time of the year. For these two teams, it is even more so vital. 73.6% of Albany’s points have come in games in which they have scored first, while 62.5% of Utica’s points have come in such a scenario. With 67 first period goals, the Comets are the seventh-best team in that category, however, to counteract the Comets early game success, the Devils have allowed the least amount of goals (43) in the first period.
Playing with a lead is critical for both teams. When escaping the first period with a lead, the Devils have won 79% of their games, while the Comets have won 76% of those games. Take that criteria to the second period, and the Comets are closing games out at an incredible 92.9% rate. Utica has only lost two games in regulation all-time as a franchise, with both of those losses coming this season, one at the hands of the Devils.
Next Game: The series packs up and heads back west to Utica, NY. Game 3 puck drop is scheduled for a 7pm start at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.