Power Play Powers Barons Past Comets
by Mark Caswell, Jr.May 13, 2015
The Oklahoma City Barons’ power play was the difference-maker as the Utica Comets dropped Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals 7-4 Wednesday night at The Cox Convention Center. The Barons capitalized on four out of their six power-play chances, which enabled them to tie the second round series 2-2.
“They have a good PP,” said Head Coach Travis Green. “We are going to give up power-play chances but we can’t give up six of them. We have to play with more discipline.”
Alex Friesen (1-1-2), Hunter Shinkaruk (1-0-1), Brendan Gaunce (1-0-1), and Sven Baertschi netted the Comets’ goals during Friday night’s game. Travis Ehrhardt (0-2-2), along with Friesen enjoyed multi-point nights.
Darnell Nurse, in his first appearance of the postseason for the Barons, made an impact early on during the first stanza. Nurse recorded his first assist 9:30 into the game after he raced down the left wing boards and fed a pass through a defender’s legs and directly onto Jujhar Khaira stick for the one-goal lead.
At 16:21 of the first period, the Comets found the equalizer after Shinkaruk released an innocent looking shot from the left circle. The puck rang off the left post, off Richard Bachman’s back, and just barely squeaked across the goal line for Shinkaruk’s third goal of the playoffs.
The second period saw a combined total of five goals which the Barons kicked off just 1:16 into the period on the power play. Brad Hunt made the goal possible with a shot from the right point, but it was Andrew Miller who buried the rebound for the Barons’ 2-1 lead.
Utica didn’t keep quiet as they answered back on the power play just short of six minutes later after Bobby Sanguinetti took a blast from the center point. After Alexandre Grenier deflected the Sanguinetti blast, the puck bounced to Baertschi who popped it into the net to erase the one-goal deficit.
An odd center ice collision led to the Comets next goal. The collision led to a two man breakaway for Friesen and Ehrhardt. Ehrhardt fired the initial shot which Bachman saved, but Friesen was there to backhand it past the sprawled out goaltender to give the Comets their lone lead of the night.
“Sometimes the bounces come,” Friesen said on his two game goal-scoring streak.
The game began to unravel for the Comets as Jacob Markstrom took a delay of game penalty after knocking his goal off of the moorings. Oklahoma beat Markstrom on a controversial goal just ten seconds into the power play after Matthew Ford batted the puck out of the air and into the right side of the net for their second power-play goal to make it a tie game once again. The goal was immediately waived off due to a high-stick by referee Terry Koharski who was positioned on the goal line. He changed his mind and deemed it a good goal after he convened with the rest of his crew.
Oklahoma’s Khaira closed out the second period’s scoring frenzy after a shot from Nurse led to a tip in front of the net as Khaira made it a 4-3 game with 2:26 left in the period.
The Barons’ power play kept rolling in the third with a fortunate bounce. Markstrom left his cage to play a dumped in puck, but the puck had other plans as it took an awkward bounce off of a stanchion and right onto Ryan Hamilton’s stick in the slot. Hamilton did not miss the gaping net and gave the Barons their first two-goal lead of the series.
The Barons’ fourth power-play goal came just two minutes later as Brandon Davidson tried to pass the puck but was blocked by a Comets defensemen. Davidson improvised as he quickly picked the puck back up and shot it only to catch Markstrom off guard and sneak past him at 11:29 to make it 6-3.
After pulling Markstrom with 6:29 left in the game, Brendan Gaunce went on to score another goal for the Comets at 16:56 but an empty net goal from Brad Hunt finished the game off with a final score of 7-4.
Wednesday night’s game saw a combined total of 18 minors, which equates to a total of 36 penalty minutes.
With the series tied, the Comets and Barons are guaranteed at least two more games with the next being played this Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET at none other than the Cox Convention Center before the best-of-seven series shifts back to The Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Three Stars: 1. OKC– Jujhar Khaira (2 Goals) 2. OKC – Brad Hunt (1 Goal, 3 Assists) 3. OKC– Darnell Nurse (3 Assists)
Tonight’s Game: The Utica Comets look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead as they take on the Oklahoma City Barons in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals tonight at 8 p.m. ET. at the Cox Convention Center.
The Barons who were seeded sixth in the playoffs are the lowest seed still participating in this years playoffs, but after giving the Comets a run for their money with three one-goal games, it’s apparent that seeds mean nothing when your eyes are set on Calder Cup
Regular Season: The Barons and the Comets only met twice during the regular season and split it down the middle. The first took place in Oklahoma on Dec. 2nd where the Comets fell 1-0 defensive battle that was decided in overtime. The Comets took their turn in the win column this past March and made up for their first meeting with a 4-2 win at The AUD.
Who to watch – Barons: Matthew Ford (1-7-8) has been quietly chipping away at the Comets offense with one assist in each of the three games against the Comets thus far in this second round series. All together the right-winger has put up a total of eight points through seven playoff games for a 1.33 points per game pace.
Up until Game 3, Richard Bachman seemed almost unbeatable as he had stopped 92 of the 95 shots the Comets unleashed on him which brought his goals-against-average to an unprecedented 0.84. It looks like the Comets may have finally solved the goaltender after finding three goals in Game 3 which nudged his post-season goals-against-average to a still impressive 1.22.
Who to watch – Comets: Alexandre Grenier (2-5-7) netted goals in back-to-back games (Games 2 and 3), with one of them being the game-winning goal. Grenier has continued his impressive play that Comets fans have become accustomed to seeing during the regular season with five assists for a total of seven points through the Comets eight playoff games. Grenier’s +4 rating leads the Comets roster.
Cal O’Reilly (0-10-10) tallied another assist on Monday night in Game 3 which just added to his league-leading assist total. O’Reilly’s 10 points during the course of the playoffs is sixth-most in the league.
Power Failure: On the power play the two teams have combined to go 1-for-24 (4.2%) 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%).
No Breathing Room: The Comets have now played 580 minutes and 15 seconds of playoff hockey. 94.6% (548:56) of that has been played with the game either tied or within a single goal.
Cardiac Comets: If you can’t handle one-goal games, then the Comets might not be the right team for you. Through the eight games the Comets have played during this post season, the Comets have only participated in one game that wasn’t decided by one-goal. That game was Game 5 of the Quarterfinals against the Chicago Wolves, and that was due to an empty-net goal with less than a minute remaining. Out of the eight games played, only three of them have been solved in regulation, with the other five decided in extra time.
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.
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Game 5 – No matter the outcome of tonight’s game this series will continue this Thursday night as the Cox Convention Center will welcome the Comets back for one last game in Oklahoma at 8 p.m. ET before the series makes a possible shift back to The Utica Memorial Auditorium.