Playing on home ice for the first time in the Calder Cup Finals made all the difference for the Utica Comets Wednesday night as they took Game 3 of the best-of-seven series and beat the Manchester Monarchs 3-2 in front of a rowdy sold out crowd at The Utica Memorial Auditorium. With the win, Utica now trails the series 2-1 and have guaranteed their fans a Game 5 this Saturday.
It was a multi-point night for the Comets captain and point leader Cal O’Reilly (1-1-2) (pictured above) after he scored his first goal of the postseason and recorded his 17th assist. Alexandre Grenier (1-1-2) had an identical night to O’Reilly’s with a goal and an assist to keep the Comets one step ahead of the Monarchs. Things haven’t cooled down for Nicklas Jensen (1-0-1) as he buried his second in just as many games for his fourth of the postseason. Jacob Markstrom had another great bounce-back performance with a total of 32 saves on 34 shots.
Getting on the board first had favored the Monarchs up to this point in the series so the Comets took the initiative and made it 1-0 game at 5:45 into the first period. Adam Clendening and Mike Zalewski made the play possible for O’Reilly who received the puck just above the high slot. With a swift skate to the left circle, O’Reilly released a shot and beat Jean-Francois Berube glove-side for the game’s opening goal.
Shortly after the Comets first goal, Berube was injured on a play and was replaced in net by back-up goaltender Patrik Bartosak at 7:51.
The AUD was rocking once again just before the last minute winded down in the first period. This time Grenier got the tally as he raced down the right wing and put a snapshot on net to beat Bartosak glove side to make it a 2-0 game.
Manchester quickly answered just 37 seconds later after Derek Forbort took a shot from inside the slot. Markstrom stopped the initial shot, but Adrian Kempe positioned himself to the right of the post as he picked up the rebound and slotted it over the glove hand to get the Monarchs within one.
Utica took their two-goal lead right back just 6:18 in to the second period after a shot from the left side of the ice bounced off of a defender in front of Bartosak and slipped through to make it 3-1. Both Grenier and Peter Andersson tallied the helpers on the play.
There was another quick reply from the Monarchs as Kempe slipped one past Markstrom for his second goal of the night just 1:02 after the Comets third goal. Sean Backman and Nick Shore set up the 2-on-1 for Kempe as the Monarchs made it the third one-goal game of the series.
The Monarchs and the Comets will meet again this Friday at The AUD for Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at 7 p.m. as they hope to even the series 2-2.