TORONTO, ON – The Comets entered game three of their opening round playoff series with the Toronto Marlies down two-games-to-none. With elimination staring them in the face, the Marlies would face a stiff test from the Central New York team in game three.
Reid Boucher opened the scoring for Utica eight seconds into their first power play to get the Comets their first lead of the series. Then, Wacey Hamilton put a shot on net that Garret Sparks slowed down, but did not stop and it was 2-0. The crowd was going nuts. When the Marlies finally started to clear their heads, Justin Holl made a cross-ice pass that Cole Cassels picked off and then went in on the breakaway to score on Sparks. Seven shots and 14 minutes into the period and the Comets were up 3-0. Sparks was pulled and replaced by Calvin Pickard, who faced no further shots in the period.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the rink, Thatcher Demko was neither bored nor unchallenged. The Marlies put 13 shots on net, with many of them being dangerous, but Demko stopped them all. With just over four minutes left in the period, the Comets got into penalty trouble as Cam Darcy got a double minor for high-sticking and then Carter Bancks got a minor for tripping. This gave the Marlies two minutes on the 5-on-4 and a full two minutes on the 5-on-3. The Marlies were their own worst enemy, but the Comets certainly helped by clearing the puck and breaking up plays. By the end of the penalties, the score was still 3-0 for the Comets.
The second period was the complete opposite to the first period. It was an even faster period, with almost no penalties and absolutely no scoring.
Early in the period, the Marlies got a delayed penalty call on Nikolay Goldobin with a hooking play that saved a goal. However, while they were pushing 6-on-5, someone got carried away and the Marlies were called for too many men on the ice. This put the teams on a 4-on-4 for the second time in the game. However, neither team did well offensively in that period. Utica forechecked hard in the Marlies end, and Toronto broke up plays in the Comets end. Not the place to be to score during a 4-on-4. While there was some pushing and shoving throughout the period, nothing was called by the referees.
Meanwhile, in the net were two fantastic goalies. Demko was pulling out magic and making saves he should not have made. Pickard was likewise making saved to keep the Marlies only down three. While Demko was the busier goalie in the first period, it was Pickard that was busier in the second, with Pickard making 16 saves to Demko’s 11, and both goalies held a shutout in the second period. The Marlies went to their dressing room looking to regroup and attack for the final 20 minutes. This is something that the Marlies have done on more than one occasion in the regular season.
The Marlies definitely came out to play in the third period. The Marlies outshot the Comets, got fewer penalties in minutes and broke the Demko shutout. However, the Comets used the Marlies penalties to kill off time. By the time Calle Rosen got the Marlies first goal, there was only half a period left in the game.
When Andrew Nielsen went off for slashing, the first Comets power-play since early in the first period, the Marlies penalty kill went into overdrive. They kept the pressure on Comets trying to force a turnover, which lead to a chance by Frederik Gauthier who almost scored on Demko shorthanded. The play would continue and Tyler Motte would get the insurance goal just after the penalty ended to make it 4-1.
The game was not over yet. Justin Holl got a penalty a short time later to put the Marlies back on the penalty kill. This time, Colin Greening made no mistake and buried the puck in behind Demko off a pass from Miro Aaltonen to make it 4-2. With just over four minutes left, the Marlies were suddenly back in the game.
With just over two minutes left, the Marlies pulled Pickard while down two. This was either going to work fantastically or be the final nail in the coffin. When Timothy Liljegren saved the empty net goal, then it looked like it was going to work. Only Cassels had another thought. The Comets broke out of their end, got the puck to Cassels, and he rushed to put it in the net and secure the game. The Marlies lose in Utica with their worst loss since February 24th when Rochester beat them 7-4.
Score: Marlies 2 – Comets 5
Shots: Marlies 37 – Comets 28
Penalties: Marlies 6 – Comets 7
Marlies goals were scored by Rosen and Greening. Assists from Aaltonen, Trevor Moore and Ben Smith.
Comets goals were scored by Boucher, Cassels (2), Hamilton and Motte. Assists from Bancks, Dylan Blujus, Michael Carcone, Jonathan Dahlen, Goldobin (2) and Hamilton.
The series will now continue Friday, April 27 at 7:00 pm in Utica. Follow @SinBinBeast on Twitter for live game updates.