Comets Bow Out in First Round
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 28, 2016
The Utica Comets third season came to a halt with a 6-3 loss to the Albany Devils Thursday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Devils took the best-of-five series three games to one.
Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) had a multi-point night for Utica, while Alex Friesen (1-0-1) and T.J Hensick (1-0-1) had the other two Comet goals. Travis Ehrhardt (0-1-1), David Shields (0-1-1), Jordan Subban (0-1-1), and Jon Landry (0-1-1) each had an assist on the night.
Albany fed off of a Comets mistake to jump out to a 1-0 lead early in the first. A Utica pass was picked off in the Comets zone by Matt Lorito. He took the puck down the center of the ice and ripped a shot past Joe Cannata.
The Devils were able to strike again seconds later on a Joseph Blandisi goal. Blandisi brought the puck down the left side of the ice and in on net. He made a move to get Cannata off balance and backhanded a shot into the net to give Albany a 2-0 lead.
Mike Sislo extended the Albany lead just over halfway through the first period. The Devils got out on a two on one and Blandisi skated down the right side with the puck. He then zipped a pass to Sislo, who streaked down the middle for a one-timer, Which gave the Devils a 3-0 lead.
Reid Boucher added on to the Devils lead in the second, turning defense into offense. Boucher stole the puck in the Comets zone, had an open scoring chance and took advantage, as he sent a shot past Cannata to make it 4-0.
Utica showed some urgency towards the end of the second, as they connected for a goal to make it 4-1. Shields fired a shot on net that deflected off the net minder. Ehrhardt grabbed the rebound and rifled a pass across the slot to Grenier who one-timed it into the open net to give the Utica crowd some life.
Albany was able to strike shortly after with a short-handed goal. Pavel Zacha got the puck on the goal line and passed it out to Blake Pietila, who put a wrist shot to the right of Cannata for a 5-1 Devils lead.
The Comets didn't go away easy, as they cut the lead to 5-2 early in the third. Subban set up Friesen, who stood above the right circle. Friesen ripped a shot that went through the legs of the goalkeeper and kept Utica in it.
Hensick and the Comets chipped away at the Albany lead again midway through the third. Albany goaltender Scott Wedgewood went behind the net to get the puck and Grenier snuck up on him and stole it. Grenier found Hensick in the crease for a one-timer, as Wedgewood was trying to scramble to get back. The Hensick goal cut the Devils lead to 5-3.
Richard Bachman was pulled from net with just over two minutes left in the game and Pietila put one in from mid ice to close out the scoring and give the Devils a 6-3 win.
Utica totaled 35 shots on the night, while Albany finished with 34 shots. Cannata (23 saves) and Richard Bachman (5 saves) combined for 28 saves in net for the Comets. Wedgewood made 32 saves in goal for the Devils.
Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets staved off elimination on Tuesday night with a riveting 2-1 OT victory, and forced a Game 4 to be played tonight. The Devils lead the best-of-five series 2-1, with both wins coming on home ice. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm.
Last Game: With the arena buzzing well before puck drop, 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.
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 had never been in the position of playing in a series clinching game prior to Tuesday night’s contest. The veteran-led Devils have a knack for bouncing back after overtime losses this season and are 5-2-1-0 in games following an OT loss. In the first three games on the series, 11 players have points (of the 18 that have skated in the series), and six of them have multiple points with Reid Boucher (2-2-5), and Jim O’Brien (2-2-4) leading the way. Dating back to the regular season, Boucher has an eight-game point streak intact. The Comets finally solved goaltender Scott Wedgewood but his number still remain very impressive. He has collected both wins, and has stymied the Comets to the tune of a 1.59 goals against average, and a .925 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.
Super Joe: After his stellar 27-save Game 3 performance, the decision to start Joe Cannata appears to be an easy one for head coach Travis Green. Dating back to his Mar. 4th shutout of the Toronto Marlies, Joe has allowed two goals or less in seven of his last nine homes games. In those nine games he has posted a 2.17 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
Shots, shots, shots!: The team that has outshot their opponent in each game thus far, has gone on to win the game. The Comets found success during Game 3 by throwing pucks on net and crashing hard – as evident by Subban and Grenier’s tallies. The Comets outshot the Devils 30-28 in the win.
Backs to the Wall:In win-or-pack-your-bags games, the Comets are now 3-1 all-time. All four games have been played on home ice. The previous three games are: Game 5 vs. Chicago (4-2 W), Game 7 vs. Oklahoma City (1-0 W), and Game 5 vs. Manchester (2-1 L).
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 a winner-takes-all game on Saturday night at the Times Union Center. With a Comets loss, the season stops here. Should there be a Game 5, puck drop is scheduled for 5pm.