The Western Conference Finals have now turned into a best-of-three series after the Utica Comets were defeated 3-2 by the Grand Rapids Griffins in the first overtime game of the series on Friday night at The Van Andel Arena.
Cory Conacher (1-0-1) has found his scoring touch and has now netted goals in back-to-back games. Alex Friesen (1-0-1) also found the back of the net on the power play for his fourth goal of the postseason. The Comets power play went 1-for-4 on the evening, and has now converted on four of their last 12 power-play chances after snapping a 1-for-28 funk.
“We played great tonight,” said Head Coach Travis Green. “We don’t have to change a lot. We have to come out and play another great 60 minutes (in Game 5).”
The power play continued to produce results for the Griffins as they opened up the scoring 5:48 into the second period. Dylan Larkin tallied his second assist of the postseason and his fourth point in four games after making a dish through the crease to Xavier Ouellet who pounded the puck in on the open side of the net. Ouellet’s go-ahead goal was his second in just as many games against the Comets.
Play turned back the other way once the Comets had their second power play of the night and Friesen was able to outwork two Griffins defensemen. Once he broke free, Friesen slid in towards the high slot and spiked it past Thomas McCollum’s left leg pad to tie the game up at one a piece. Sven Baertschi tallied the only assist on the play for his fourth point in two games.
The Comets didn’t stop there as Conacher tallied his second goal in as many games after a pass to the center slot from Alexandre Grenier led to a shot that passed under McCollum’s right arm for the 2-1 lead at the 16:42 mark of the second period. Cal O’Reilly also had a hand in on the play as he tallied his fifth assist of the series, and extended his point streak to four games.
The Griffins eventually found the equalizer just past the five-minute mark in to the third period. With Brian Lashoff at the blue line, the defensemen started a nice give-and-go play by feeding it to Andreas Athanasiou on the right wing. Athanasiou then quickly passed it to the front of the net where Anthony Mantha smacked it past Markstrom to make it 2-2.
An overtime period was necessary but the Griffins came out on top at 5:05 after Athanasiou broke away and beat Markstrom after he deked his way to the left side of the net. Athanasiou’s second point of the night put the game away with a final score of 3-2.
“We played well again tonight,” said Cal O’Reilly. “We did what we wanted to do. A few breakdowns cost us the game tonight.”
The Comets and the Griffins will wrap up their time at Van Andel Arena this Sunday as the two teams meet at 5 p.m. for Game 5 before heading back to Utica for Game 6 and 7*.
Notes: The Comets have now played 16 playoff games…Six of which were decided in overtime…The Comets possess a record of 3-3 in playoff overtimes games…The Comets have played nine periods of OT in the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs.