Comets Ride Electric Crowd to OT Win
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 26, 2016
The Utica Comets rallied off of the electric Utica crowd to defeat the Albany Devils 2-1 in a tightly contested overtime battle to take Game 3 of the North Division Semifinals, Tuesday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Jordan Subban (1-0-1) and Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) had the Utica goals, while Jon Landry (0-1-1) and Mike Zalewski (0-1-1) tallied on assists. Joe Cannata made some crucial saves in net for the Comets and finished with 27 saves.
After some back-and-forth action for over twelve minutes to start the game, Subban’s fortunate bounce gave the Comets the early lead. Subban carried the puck down the right side of the Devils zone and sniped a wrist shot from the right slot. The shot clanked off the post, off of the back of the net and into the net for a 1-0 Comets lead.
The Devils struck back late in the first on a four-on-three power play. Severson received the puck at the point and quickly swung a pass to his left for a Sislo one timer to tie the game 1-1.
Things got chippy in the second period, as both teams exchanged hard hits. The physical play led to a lot of fights and penalties for both sides, but neither team could gain momentum as the score remained 1-1 going into the final period.
There was more of the same in the third period, as both teams had their chances, but neither could find the back of the net and the game went to overtime.
Utica dominated the overtime period out of the gates and outshot Albany seven to three in the period. The game winner came after Zalewski stole the puck from a Devils defensemen, and brought it in on net. He faked a shot and passed it to Grenier, who streaked down the slot and punched in a point blank shot to give the Comets the 2-1 win and extend the series.
Utica finished with 30 shots on goal, while the Devils totaled 28 shots. Scott Wedgewood saved 28 shots in net for Albany.
The Comets and Devils will be back at it on Thursday night for game four of the North Division Semifinals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.
To ensure local Comets fans can get first chance to purchase tickets to Game 4 on Thursday night, single game tickets will be available to the general public starting at 10a.m. tomorrow morning, exclusively at the Utica Memorial Auditorium box office. Tickets will only be sold at the Labatt Blue Box Office (facing Cornelia St.). Tickets will be sold online (www.EmpireStateTix.com) and over the phone (866-688-8750) through Empire State Tickets starting at 12 p.m. No tickets will be sold over the phone through the Comets office or The AUD’s Box Office.
Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets third season is in danger of ending on home ice – for the third consecutive season. With a win, the Albany Devils can make short work of the North Division Semifinals match-up and sweep the series 3-0.
Last Game:The Comets season was 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 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.
Scouting the Devils: The Albany Devils can advance to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in their 10-year history. In fact, the team has never been in the position of playing in a series clinching game. In the first two games on the series, 11 players have points, and six of them have multiple points with Reid Boucher (2-2-4), and Jim O’Brien (2-2-4) leading the way. Dating back to the regular season, Boucher has a seven-game point streak going. In net, Scott Wedgewood has not blinked in his Calder Cup Playoffs debut. He has collected both wins, and has stymied the Comets to the tune of a 1.50 goals against average, and a .919 save percentage.
Home Ice Advantage: The Comets statistical edge at home is evident in several categories, most notably the penalty-kill. The Comets penalty-kill at home was the best in the league this year with a 90% success rate. The Devils road power play ranked 22nd in the league (13.2%), a drastic drop from it’s third-best home power play (23.5%). In addition, the Comets have a +13 goal differential on home ice, while the Devils scored a ninth-worst in the league, 96 goals on the road.
Who Gets the Nod Tonight?: The decision is a tough one for coach Travis Green. Bachman or Cannata. Bachman started both Game 1 and 2, but was relieved by Joe Cannata to finish Game 2 after allowed four goals. At The AUD, Cannata has allowed two goals or less in six of his last eight starts and is 10-5-3-1, with a 2.09 goals against average, and a .916 save percentage overall. Bachman collected a 7-6-2-2 record while posting a 2.16 goals against average, and a .913 save percentage at home.
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: With a Comets win, we’ll play Game 4 on Thursday night at The AUD. With a Comets loss, the season stops here. Should there be a Game 4, puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.