Round 2: Playoff Notebook
by Mark Caswell, Jr.May 8, 2015
Stay tuned here for updates from the Comets second round series against the Oklahoma City Barons. Follow @UticaComets on Twitter and Instagram for photo updates.
Round 1’s Notebook can be found here.
THURSDAY, 5/21 – OFF-DAY
4:23pm: A day after yet another historic night in the Mohawk Valley and the enthusiasm is still pulsing through Utica’s veins. That much is evident simply by the line of people outside The AUD when doors opened at 10am. Game 1 sold out in under four and a half hours, and at last check, Game 2 had lest than 40 tickets left. Yet another tremendous showing by fans as this was only 11 hours after the sale had been announced.
Raw footage from last night’s final minute:
WEDNESDAY, 5/20 – GAMEDAY -Puck drop 7pm
11:56pm: Post-game reactions:
“I couldn’t hear myself think it was so loud. The crowd motivates you” – Jake Virtanen
“I’ve played in two other Game 7s – they don’t compare to tonight” – Jake Virtanen
“We just keep going, we believe in each other.” -Jacob Markstrom
“My players in front of me are playing great right now.” -Jacob Markstrom
“This is the loudest place in the AHL that I’ve played in. These fans are unreal.” -Jacob Markstrom
“100% it lived up to its expectation. It was so good for us to have the crowd behind us in the final minutes.” -Alexander Grenier
“We’re used to playing these types of games.” -Travis Green
“We’ll let the staff prep tomorrow for Grand Rapids and give the team a break for a day.” -Travis Green
11:15pm: 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.
THE COMETS ADVANCE!!! Following a historic performance from Jacob Markstrom in net, the Comets advance to the Western Conference Finals with 1-0 win.
12:07pm: No real surprises from morning skates. Neither coach will change horses mid-race, Bachman vs Markstrom for all the marbles…well kind of.
Jake Virtanen is expected to play again tonight.
-Brandon Davidson is considered a gametime decision after exiting Game 6 early due to a lower body injury. He was seen with crutches yesterday so a return to the ice for tonight is doubtful. Update: Davidson took morning skate with the Barons this morning.
-Will Acton is out tonight, but is creeping closer and closer to a return.
-Frank Corrado participated in practice today while wearing a non-contact jersey.
-Darren Archibald and Carter Bancks are both out tonight with lower body injuries.
TUESDAY, 5/19 – Practice Day
12:47pm: A big moment happened during the second period when the Comets appeared to have tied the game at 1 when Mike Zalewski popped home a rebound into an empty net. It’s a play that has caused much confusion and discussion, so let’s take a minute here to break it down and talk about what the referee called.
Rule 69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
How this applies to last night’s call on the Mike Zalewski no-goal:
-What is not up for debate is Sven Baertschi made contact with Richard Bachman and that resulted in Mike Zalewski being able to put the puck into an empty net.
-The referee immediately waived off the goal which indicated he felt Baertschi did not make enough of an effort to avoid the contact.
Going back to the rulebook:
69.2 – In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty. In all cases where the infraction being imposed is to the attacking player for hindering the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely in his goal crease, the penalty to be assessed is goalkeeper interference.
Final decision? The referee deemed it incidental contact, which can be interpreted as he felt the defender caused the contact, but that the attacker (Baertschi) did not do enough to avoid the collision that resulted in the “goal”.
Finally, goaltender interference calls are judgement calls and are not subject to review, that is why the refs did not look at the monitor.
12:15pm: Some post practice reactions:
“We’re spoiled here. The atmosphere is unbelievable. We have Game 7 here and going to use that energy tomorrow.” – Sanguinetti
“It was awesome. The fans were unbelievable. It’s an unbelievable atmosphere and it gives us an extra boost.” -Jake Virtanen
“It’s Game 7, so it’s time to put some more pucks in the net.” -Shinkaruk
“It’s a lot of fun playing in this building and in front of our fans especially after playing in other buildings.” -Baertschi
“They’ve supported us all year. We want to make the fans proud tomorrow night.” -Sven Baertschi
MONDAY, 5/18 – GAME-DAY
10:43pm: Some post-game reactions: “I was happy with his game. He’s a really good hockey player. He played physical.” – Travis Green on Jake Virtanen
“After my first shift or two. Then I began playing my game;making hits, putting pucks on net” – Jake Virtanen
The Comets and Barons head to a decisive Game 7 after the Barons took down the Comets 2-1.
2:57pm: Brendan Burke reports that Carter Bancks is out for tonight.
12:29pm: Another no-brainer from morning skate, Richard Bachman was the first goalie off the ice for the Barons. Markstrom vs. Bachman for the sixth time tonight.
11:10am: Some surprising news out morning skate, Jake Virtanen did not participate in the post-morning skate practice, which is typically the time players not playing that night get a full practice in. The sixth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Level Draft has yet to play in a pro hockey game but has posted 121 games during the past two years for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. In an interview with TSN1040 recently, Travis Green had the following to say about Virtanen: “Big, powerful kid. Great release and a strong skater. Looks like your prototypical power forward.”
In not so surprising news, the net once again belongs to Jacob Markstrom tonight.
SUNDAY, 5/17 – Practice Day
10:43am: The boys are back on the ice at home, however this time “home” is at the Whitestown Community Center. The AUD’s ice is unavailable due to a couple graduations (congrats graduates!), so both teams are forced to practice at this community center roughly 10 minutes west of The AUD.
-Will Acton continues to progress and is skating on his own, in full gear, after practice.
-Archibald has not yet returned to practice. –
Andrey Pedan practiced with the team without a non-contact jersey on, making it appear as if he’s got the green light to return to the roster if Travis Green chooses.
SATURDAY, 5/16 – Off-day
2:42pm: Game 6 has SOLD OUT. Very few tickets are left for Game 7, so get them now at TicketMaster.com if you would like to go.
2:37pm: Not much to report on from a player’s and coach’s front today. Players came in for a stretch, and just routine maintenance stuff while the coaches poured over game footage. A lot of positive energy is a foot, and no doubt the players are excited to be home. Quite a bit of chatter about wanting to close out the series on Monday in front of the home fans.
FRIDAY, 5/15 – Travel Day
A long day of travel is on tap as the Comets return to The AUD’s cozy confines. Three different flights with departures ranging from 6am CT, to 8am CT, are scheduled. Your complete Comets fix for the day is below.
THURSDAY, 5/14 – GAMEDAY – Puck drop 8pm ET
12:22am: Big, big win for the Comets, who are now a perfect 4-0 in games following losses in the playoffs. Jacob Markstrom was unbelievable stopping all but one power-play goal that came late in the third period. Hear from the players, and coaches here. Some even answered your questions.
-“It’s nice to go home up 3-2. We definitely feel there is a home ice advantage in our building. The AUD should be good on Monday.” -Travis Green
-“Marky responded with a great game tonight. Our whole team responded. All four lines were real good. Everyone responded tonight and we need everyone to win.” -Travis Green
– “Maybe a little (on playing with more intensity). Being able to play 5-on-5 was the biggest thing for us after last night. We found a lot of success against them there.” -Wacey Hamilton
Some more reactions:
-“It (scoring) was a monkey off my back and our line’s back. We’ve worked hard and finally got rewarded for our hard work.” -Wacey Hamilton
-“Today was huge for our team. Yesterday was not our best game, but good teams respond and our whole team responded tonight.”- Jacob Markstrom
-“We were really good to start the game. Then when we went up 2-0 they pushed and we stuck to our game plan and didn’t panic” -Travis Green
11:45pm: Game photos can be viewed here.
The Comets took home a convincing win by the score of 3-1 to grab a 3-2 series lead as the series heads back to Utica.
9:16am: Last night’s loss has drawn up quite a bit of chatter and has drawn the ire of Comets fans, mostly towards the game’s officiating. Let’s take a closer look at the two calls that have drawn the most attention.
1. The Markstrom penalty We’ll have a GIF for you shortly, in the mean time we’ll describe the play for you. With a Baron all alone in the slot, Markstrom slid across the crease to make a pad save. In the process of sliding to the far post his foot kicked the net off it’s mooring, neutralizing a scoring chance for the Barons.
That call is rarely made in a game, let alone a playoff game, but it is the correct call if in the referee’s discretion the goaltender had some intent behind knocking the net off. While intent is hard to prove, it is not hard to prove or see that the net coming off of the moorings eliminated a scoring chance for the Barons. The penalty is a discretionary call and one the referee felt he had to make in this instance.
2. The Barons’ third goal First, let’s establish the rule from the AHL Rule Book:
Rule 60 – High Sticking 60.5 – Goals -An apparent goal scored by an attacking player who strikes the puck with his stick carried above the height of the crossbar of the goal frame shall not be allowed. The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick. If the puck makes contact with the stick at or below the level of the crossbar and enters the goal, this goal shall be allowed.
Below is a screen grab of Matt Ford’s goal with the stick (red) and puck (yellow) indicated. Initially the referee behind Markstrom waived off the goal saying the puck was played with a high stick. After convening with the rest of the crew the initial call was overturned and the goal was allowed, tying the game at three. The stick appears to have made contact with the puck at the crossbar level, which is allowed.
Take a look at the GIF below and you can be the judge on the call.
3. The DeFazio Trip
This one is a bit more tough to swallow. It took away a blatant scoring chance, the player was pulled down from behind, and it was a deliberate act to stop an opponent from scoring. It seemed to have all the criteria for a penalty, or even reward a goal. It’s tough to find an argument that a non-call was the correct call here.
WEDNESDAY, 5/13 – GAMEDAY – Puck drop 8pm ET
11:48pm: Post-game reactions:
-“We need to get away from taking penalties in this series because we think we outplay them 5-on-5.” -Friesen
-“Sometimes the bounces come.” -Friesen, on his two game scoring streak.
-“We played well 5 on 5. We don’t have to make many changes. We have to stay focused, play energized be ready to find a way to win.” -Green
-“They have a good power play. We’re going to give up power play chances but we can’t give up 6 of them. We have to play with more discipline.”-Green
-“Their power play (4/6) got pucks on net and a few bounces. They executed better tonight.” -Cal O’Reilly
-“We have to forget about it. Score wasn’t telling of how we played tonight. We need to be more disciplined and keep it 5-on-5.” -O’Reilly
The Comets lost a wild 7-4 decision. The series is now tied at two games each.
12:41pm: More from the “common sense department”, Joacim Eriksson was the last goalie on the ice for the Comets during morning skate. Jacob Markstrom goes again tonight. This will pit the league’s top two remaining goalies, in terms of goals against average, against each other for a fourth time this series.
11:42am: After seeing his GAA jump from 0.84 to 1.22, Richard Bachman is the first goalie off the ice for the Barons in morning skate. 9:53am: Good morning Comets fans, and welcome to gameday. Game 4 is scheduled for an 8pm ET puck drop at the Cox Convention Center. The Comets morning skate is scheduled for 12:15pm. We’ll have more updates for you as practice gets underway.
TUESDAY, 5/12 – OFF-DAY
5:06pm: Huge news out of the AHL today with the division realignment. It’s a massive overhaul of the entire league, and one that benefits the Comets big-time. Let’s break down the initial reactions.
-Utica fans finally get their “Empire Division”..sort of. All five NY teams are now in one division, plus two more, Toronto and St. John’s. -Comets are now in the Eastern Conference. That is a plus for several reasons. One being travel miles, and nights spent in hotels will drastically drop. With so many teams in close proximity of the Comets you may see a schedule completely void of Western Conference teams.
-Almost guarantees more games vs Syracuse. And seriously, can that be a bad thing?
-Playoff format? The AHL says they will announce a playoff format after the July Board of Governors meeting. It’s logical to guess that the AHL is going to go to a playoff format similar to the NHL’s. If that’s the case, rivalries will be ramped up as the playoff seeds will feature rivalries constantly facing off in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
-Being in the East should make playoff seeding easier to read. It’s been rumored, and advertised, that the California teams will play a 68-game schedule while the rest of the AHL plays a 76-game schedule. With those teams firmly in the West, it won’t take a math major to figure out where the Comets stand down the stretch.
4:37pm: Jacob Markstrom appeared on TSN 1040 today and had some thoughts on the playoffs. Listen Here.
4:05pm: The medical and equipment staff took the afternoon to visit the Oklahoma City Memorial, the site of the horrific April 19, 1995 bombing. I found the memorial to be very moving, and the museum itself is a top notch museum that dots every i, and crosses every t. Since this is a sports webpage, there was one thing stuck out to me in particular as very interesting. Every new player that the Oklahoma City Thunder sign, or acquire, goes through the museum and memorial shortly after joining the team.
10:54am: A light day today as players who played last night only have to report for a stretch, with an optional skate.The rest of the roster will take to the ice.
9:18am: A day after a playoff win is always much more upbeat than days after a loss, that really goes without saying. As you can imagine the locker room is upbeat after winning back-to-back playoff games for the first time in franchise history. Recap: Comets Regain Home Ice Advantage.
MONDAY, 5/11 – GAMEDAY – Puck drop 8pm ET
12:37am: For the first time in the playoffs, the Comets have won back-t0-back games. Here are some post-game reactions. “Marky was real good again tonight. We’ve come to expect that.” -Travis Green
“We’re not looking too far ahead. Tonight’s win was big because we took home ice advantage back. Both teams battled hard tonight.” -Green
“Grenier was good again. He’s learning to play like a power forward. Goes to the net when he needs to and plays big in the corners.” -Green
“Every game is important. You want to win them all. Winning Game 3 on the road is a big one.” -Brandon DeFazio
“It was a huge win for our group. I think it was big for us to come and take one back on the road after splitting at home. They definitely pushed hard but I think we did a good job of sticking together and grinding one out. It feels great to finally score again. Our line had a few chances throughout the game, so it was nice for us to contribute again tonight.” – Michael Zalewski
Comets defeat the Barons 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.
12:39pm: Markstrom is the guy for the Comets. Not sure of other possible line-up changes. Might see Huskins back in for Andersson.
11:41am: No surprise here. Richard Bachman is the first goalie off the ice for the Barons. He’ll get the nod again tonight.
10:06am: It’s a beautiful sunny day in Oklahoma City. Morning skate is scheduled for 12:15pm for the Comets. In the mean time, check out this new #BuiltForThisMoment video from Game 2 at #TheAUD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfzAqiLXfmU
SATURDAY, 5/9 – Travel day
7:06pm: The Comets arrived safely in Oklahoma City. Everyone except Will Acton, Darren Archibald, and Ludwig Blomstrand, made the trip.
FRIDAY, 5/8 – GAMEDAY -Puck drop 7pm
11:14pm: Post-game reactions from a very, very happy locker room.
“We like going to the net, we like causing havoc there.” -Adam Clendening
“We stuck to the way we played.” -Adam Clendening
“We know this was a must win.”-Alexander Grenier
“It’s a huge win. It would have been tough to go down there down two.” -Travis Green
The Comets won a 2-1 OT decision to knot the series at a game apiece.
4:02pm: Since 2008, 18 AHL games went two overtimes or more. The teams that lost the OT game won the following game nine times. Three of those 18 games were the final games of the series.
-In the last two years, three AHL games have gone two or more OTs. The team that lost is 3-1 in the following game.
11:44am: If tonight goes to 4 OT’s again (fingers crossed it doesn’t), the Barons may have some trouble traveling back. They have a 6am flight out of Newark Airport to Denver, before going to OK City. The Comets, on the other hand, leave out of Albany tomorrow, with a bus to the airport scheduled for 7am.
9:17am: Alright, we have A LOT to get to. I’ll break it up into sections so you can skip to what you want to know.
-Darren Archibald – He left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury. I’d be surprised if we see him take to the ice tonight. He stayed and watched the rest of the game, so the fact that a hospital visit was not needed is a good sign for a possible return to the series.
-Alexandre Grenier – Grenier suffered from cramps due to the length and intensity of the game. He should be ready to go for tonight.
-Bobby Sanguinetti – Same thing as Grenier. Long games like that have different effects on players and that’s what you saw last night with these two.
-Any roster changes? I’m going to guess you’ll see Nicklas Jensen before you see Virtanen or LaBate. Other moves, who knows. Green could take the option to rotate in some fresh legs with Eriksson, Andersson, Pedan, Virtanen and McCann. It’ll be tough to gauge prior to pre-game warm-ups because there will be no morning skate today.
Stats and Records
-Out of the box you know by now that last night’s game was the sixth-longest game in American Hockey League history. Here’s where it compared to by time:
- April 14, 2008 – Philadelphia 3 @ Albany 2 – 142:58
- May 30, 2003 – Houston 1 @ Hamilton 2 – 134:56
- April 10, 1982 – Rochester 2 @ New Haven 3 – 134:08
- April 4, 1938 – Syracuse 3 @ Cleveland 2 – 122:42
- April 14, 1953 – Cleveland 2 @ Pittsburgh 3 – 121:46
- May 7, 2015 – Oklahoma City 2 @ Utica 1 – 120:16
- March 28, 1939 – Providence 3 @ Cleveland 2 – 119:47
-The real time length of the game clocked in at 5 hours and 12 seconds.
-The game clearly ranks as the longest game in The AUD’s AHL history, and a quick glance at Jim Mancuso’s books indicate that the game is the longest pro hockey game in The AUD’s history. But that is unconfirmed as of now.
-Jacob Markstrom set a record for amount of saves at The AUD with 65. The previous mark was 54 set by Richard Guay of the Maine Nordiques in a game against the North American Hockey League’s Mohawk Valley Comets on February 28, 1975. Guay’s Nordiques won the game 3-2 in overtime. Guay was a 12th Round Draft Pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 NHL Draft.
-Markstrom’s 65 saves also serves as a career-high for saves in a game. His previous high was 49 saves against Charlotte in a game on December 30, 2012.
-11 games this postseason have gone to extra time with four of them needing more than one OT to settle things. In the six games that have gone to overtime and then were followed up with another game (a.k.a. games that did not eliminate a team), the team that lost in OT are 4-1 in the second game. Teams that have lost in double OT or more are 2-1 in the game immediately following the heartbreaking loss.
-The Comets have now played 456 minutes and 43 seconds in the playoffs. 93.7% (427:59) of that has been played with the game either tied or within a single goal.
-The Barons as a franchise are 7-3 all-time in overtime games in the playoffs. Four of those victories have come at the expense of Jacob Markstrom.
7:49am: “Respond.” The only word written on the locker room’s whiteboard this morning. That word popped up everywhere in Travis Green’s post-game press conference last night, as well as in his comments to the players.
THURSDAY, 5/7 – GAMEDAY – Puck drop 7pm
12:30am (Technically Friday): Post-game comments:
“You have got to have short-term memory in the playoffs.” – Travis Green
“Both goalies played well. Marky Markstrom) played unbelievable. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t find another goal.” – Travis Green
The Barons take a 2-1 win in a game that required 4 OT’s. It is the sixth-longest game in American Hockey League history.
11:41am: Jacob Markstrom and Richard Bachman were the first goaltenders off the ice for their team during morning skate, setting up an All-Star goaltending match-up. Bachman came in in relief during the Barons’ Game 2 win, and then started Game 3 for the series clincher. In the two victories he posted a 0.59 goals against average, and a .981 save percentage.
WEDNESDAY, 5/6 – Practice Day
3:31pm: Travis Green told Vancouver Canucks’ Tyson Giuriato that Jake Virtanen’s first shot at practice today ripped through the net.
12:40pm: Some good news to report. Will Acton skated for about 15 minutes after practice today without pads. It is the first time he has skated since he suffered an injury on March 20th. Andrey Pedan once again skated with the Comets, again without a non-contact jersey.
Mike Zalewski post-game:”It was amazing how loud The AUD was on Saturday. That was something I’ve never seen before in hockey.”
9:46am: Another normal practice day at The AUD. The AHL Conference Semifinals kicks off tonight but we’ll have to wait one more day. Want to get fired up on this hump day? Check out the #BuiltForThisMoment video from Game 5.
TUESDAY, 5/5 – Light Day
10:21am: The Barons have added Edmonton’s 2013 first round pick (seventh overall) to the roster. Interesting note, he’s the nephew of former Syracuse University star Donovan McNabb.
10:03am: It’s a light day on the ice as only the scratches from the past few games are on the ice today. Everyone else is in the building getting treatment and/or working out.
MONDAY, 5/4 – Practice Day
12:33pm: Two more first rounders have been added to the #Comets roster for the playoffs, which brings the Comets roster to seven total first round draft picks. Release
12:08pm: Post-practice quotes:
– “It is exciting but we have pretty big goals for this team and to achieve them we need to win more than one round.” -Brendan Gaunce
“It doesn’t get any better than here. They (fans) always seem to surprise us. The noise level and excitement was unbelievable.”-Travis Green
“I’m proud of our guys. We’ve got a lot of faith in our team and organization.” -Travis Green
“Keep doing what you’re doing. We love the white outs, we love the energy. They are our 6th man.” -Cal O’Reilly
11:02am: Practice is underway and we’re officially on to Round 2. Full participation and it’s a full practice as we gear up for the Barons. Stay tuned here and to Twitter for quotes after practice.
10:49am: From Oklahoma City, former fan favorite Kellan Lain is still recovering from surgery and will not be making the trip to Utica for this series.
8:54am: Before we fully move on to Round 2 there’s some “round-up” of stuff from the first round still lingering out there. According to Jake Virtanen’s Twitter, he will be joining the Comets for the remainder of the playoffs. The Canucks’ 2014 first round pick (6th overall) spent the season playing for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, and ranked 5th on the team in points with 52. The Hockey News projects Virtanen to be a “pure goal scorer” in the NHL.
Curious what The AUD felt and sounded like from ice level on Saturday? We have a look for you here.