A trip to the Western Conference Finals is just one win away for the Utica Comets after they took a 3-2 series lead over their second round opponent, the Oklahoma City Barons on Thursday night. The Comets 3-1 victory at the Cox Convention Center was just their fourth game of the playoffs that was decided in regulation.
“We were really good to start the game,” said Head Coach Travis Green. “When we went up 2-0 they (Barons) pushed and we stuck to our game plan and didn’t panic. I thought we played a really good game tonight.”
Wacey Hamilton (1-0-1), and
(1-0-1) both lit the lamp for the first time this postseason as they helped the rest of their team rebound from dropping Game 4 in Oklahoma City. Alexandre Grenier (1-0-1) also helped secure the win as he scored his third goal of the series. Jacob Markstrom carried his team through the thick of it all including saving 15 of the 16 third period shots thee Barons peppered him with, for a total of 33 saves.
The first period was all about possession for the Comets and it worked to their benefit after they found the first goal of the night at 12:13. Bobby Sanguinetti set up Hamilton after his shot from the right boards resulted in a rebound. Bachman stopped the initial blast, but Hamilton was there to collect and score the rebounded puck to give the Comets the early lead.
“It was a monkey off my back and our line’s back,” said Hamilton. “We’ve worked hard and finally got rewarded for our hard work.”
The Comets offensive dominance carried over into the second period. Alex Friesen created a great heads-up play and dished the puck over to Andersson who was left wide open on the left side of the ice. Andersson proceeded to walk in closer, picked his spot, and snapped it past Bachman to double Utica’s lead. Nicklas Jensen tallied the secondary assist on Andersson’s eventual game-winning goal.
With only a combined total of six penalty minutes taken before the final three minutes of the third period, the Comets hit an unlucky patch as Nicklas Jensen was called at 17:04 for a holding penalty. With Jensen in the box, Brad Hunt hammered a slapshot from the left point that ripped through a screen and into the net to break up Markstrom’s shutout bid.
At 19:44 Grenier put the game to bed as he broke free of the defense and guided the puck all the way to the empty net for the final score of 3-1. Kent Huskins found the scorer’s sheet with an assist on the Grenier goal, as well as Brendan Gaunce, who tallied his fifth point of the postseason with his second assist of the game.
“Today was huge for our team,” said goaltender Jacob Markstrom. “Yesterday was not our best game but good teams respond and our whole team responded tonight.”
The Comets are now a perfect 4-0 in games following a loss in the playoffs.
Now with the series lead, the Comets will be looking to close it out and put this series in the past once they return to The Utica Memorial Auditorium this coming Monday for Game 6 at 7 p.m.