Markstrom's Historic Shutout Leads Comets to Semifinals
by Mark Caswell, Jr.May 20, 2015
One goal was all the Utica Comets needed Wednesday night as they secured a spot in the Calder Cup’s Western Conference Final after eliminating the Oklahoma City Barons 1-0 in Game 7 at The Utica Memorial Auditorium.
After losing Game 6, Jacob Markstrom had another bounceback performance as he shutout the Barons and stopped all 35 of the shots the Barons unloaded on him. Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) was the offensive hero for the Comets as he netted his second game-winning goal of the series.
Since 1992, teams that have scored first in the Game 7’s have gone 47-13. With that statistic in the back of their minds, the Comets kept it a 0-0 game until the 7:11 mark in the third and final period.
“You want to get the first goal in a game seven. There was a lot of emphasis on that,” said Head Coach Travis Green.
It only took three consecutive shots but Grenier was able to find the rebound just inside the blue paint as he knocked the puck past the Barons netminder, Richard Bachman that gave the Comets all that they needed to walk away with the win. Both Travis Ehrhardt and Alex Biega were credited with the assists.
With the shutout, Jacob Markstrom became the second goalie in American Hockey League history with a 1-0 Game 7 shutout, joining Cleveland’s Johnny Bower who achieved the same feat in the 1953 Finals.
After bringing both of their first two rounds to the brink, the Comets have played a total of 12 games with nine of them being one-goal games. In those nine games the Comets have gone 5-4 this postseason.
Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals begins this Sunday at The Utica Memorial Auditorium, as the Comets will host the Grand Rapids Griffins at 7 p.m.
Three Stars: 1. UTI– Jacob Markstrom (35 Saves, Win) 2. UTI – Alexandre Grenier (1 Goal) 3. OKC– Richard Bachman (39 Saves)
Decisive Game 7: To be eliminated, or not to be eliminated, that is the question.
The Utica Comets work best under pressure and tonight will put their will to win to the test as they aim to win the first Game 7 in the history of the franchise in order to avoid getting removed from the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs by the Oklahoma City Barons.
Ironically enough, both teams have lost two games on their home ice and have won two on the road resulting in the 3-3 tie that is Round 2 for the Comets and the Barons. The Comets will look to make that statistic a distant memory as they prepare to take the series and win another at The Utica Memorial Auditorium tonight at 7 p.m.
WHITEout Effect: The Comets asked that fans WHITEout The AUD for all playoff games, and boy are they off to a hot start. The WHITEout serves as a rallying cry, and shows support to the players wearing WHITE on the ice. Add the WHITEout intimidation factor in with the ear-splitting noise the Comets faithful brings to the game, and you have a decided edge in favor of the home team. The atmosphere created by the “5th Line” is a unique element, and Utica fans will once again need to make their presence known throughout the playoffs just like they have all season. During sellouts at The AUD the Comets have won 18 out of 29 games (62%) with the help of their fans.
History Knows Best: In the history of the Calder Cup Playoffs, 129 best-of-seven series have been tied 2-2. The Game 5 winner has won the series 105 times at a percentage of 81.4. The Comets won Game 5 3-1 in Oklahoma City.
Who to watch – Barons: Tonight is sure to be a battle of the creases with Richard Bachman in net for the Barons once again. After tying the series back up on Monday night with a highlight reel performance, Bachman has his sights on the Western Conference Finals. The goaltender continues to improve his numbers after only letting in one of the Comets shots on Monday. His goals-against-average currently stands at a 1.61 while boasting an impressive .950 save percentage.
Ryan Hamilton (5-0-5) has been the go-to-guy for scoring goals and hasn’t disappointed with another tally in Monday night’s Game 6 to put the Barons over the Comets by two-goals in the third period.
Who to watch – Comets: No one needs to give Jacob Markstrom a trampoline because he’s completely capable of bouncing back himself after a loss. The Swedish goaltender has made it a point to always bounce back after a Comets loss during their 2015 playoff run and tonight he will be looking to continue that trend. In games following losses the All-Star goaltender has been undefeated with a record of 4-0, a save percentage of .951%, and a goals against average of 1.18. He has allowed just five goals in those four games.
Alex Friesen (3-5-8) has been on a tear while riding a four-game point streak. With the only tally in Monday night’s game, the gritty forward improved his plus/minus to a plus four, good enough to share the team lead in that category with Alexandre Grenier (3-6-9).
Game 7 History: Utica and Oklahoma City meet tonight in the 163rd winner-take-all game and the 90th Game 7 in Calder Cup Playoff history. Home teams are 49-40 (.551) all-time in Game 7’s. Since 1992, teams are 47-13 (.783) in Game 7’s when scoring first.
Prepare the Nerves: Utica and Oklahoma City got to the playoffs this year by being two of the league’s top “cardiac” teams. Utica paced the league in one-goal games (43), and wins in one-goal games (24-10-7-2). OK City only played in 33 one-goal games, but 22 of those games needed overtime to settle things. The Barons’ won 14 of those 22 games en route to the 2015 playoffs.
The Only Show in Town: The Comets-Barons match-up is the only Conference Semifinals series still ongoing as the three other series have wrapped up. In the Eastern Conference Semis, the top-seeded Manchester Monarchs dispatched of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in just five games and will face off against the Hartford Wolfpack, who needed six games to defeat the Hershey Bears. The Grand Rapids Griffins, who took down the Rockford IceHogs in five games, awaits the winner of this series in the West.
Tall Task: Oklahoma City is bidding to become just the ninth team in AHL history to win Games 6 and 7 of a playoff series on the road:
2013 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (vs. Providence)
2011 – Manitoba Moose (vs. Lake Erie)
2011 – Binghamton Senators (vs. Manchester)
2010 – Texas Stars (vs. Hamilton)
2010 – Abbotsford Heat (vs. Rochester)
2007 – Providence Bruins (vs. Hartford)
1996 – Portland Pirates (vs. Saint John)
1983 – Maine Mariners (vs. Nova Scotia)
Complete Coverage: Can’t listen to Brendan Burke or watch the game on AHL Live? No problem! Just follow us on @UticaComets or @CometsInGame on Twitter and we’ve got you covered with live up to the minute updates and instant videos of all the Comets goals.
#BuiltForThisMoment: It’s your turn to show us how you celebrate during a Comets game, whether it’s at The AUD, on your couch or at the bar. Submit your videos by posting them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and including the hashtag #BuiltForThisMoment for a chance to have your video after the game concludes.
Let’s Talk Hypotheticals: While we’re not exactly sure what’s in store for the Comets after tonight’s Game 7 against the Barons, there’s only two possibilities (with one we’d rather not talk about) for the Utica hockey club. With a Comets win tonight, they will clinch the series and move on to the Western Conference Finals which is set to begin Sunday night against the Grand Rapids Griffins who have already won their series against the Rockford IceHogs.