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Baertschi hat trick leads Comets in Game 3

Sven Baertschi‘s natural hat trick in the second period led the Utica Comets to a 4-1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night inside Van Andel Arena. The win gives the Comets a 2-1 lead in the series, and handed the Griffins their first loss at home in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.


For the first time in the series, there was no scoring in the opening frame as the teams traded a total of 16 shots to no avail.


Baertschi would change that, scoring three times in 8:36 in the second period to give the Comets a huge boost and earn his first professional playoff hat trick in the process. The hat trick was the first allowed in the playoffs by Grand Rapids in eight years, and the first at home in 13 years. The sixth overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft by the Vancouver Canucks, Jake Virtanen earned his first professional point on Baertschi’s third goal.


Will ActonWacey HamiltonAlex Friesen, Cal O’Reilly, and Bobby Sanguinetti all earned helpers on Baertschi’s goals.


The Griffins showed signs of life 4:19 into the third, as Marek Tvrdon‘s shot knuckled its way past Comets netminder Jacob Markstrom to put Grand Rapids on the board. Jeff Hoggan and Dylan Larkin recorded assists on Tvrdon’s second of the postseason. Larkin, drafted 15h overall in 2015 by the Detroit Red Wings, now has three points (2g-1a) in his first three professional games since signing an ATO with the Griffins on May 21.


Cory Conacher restored Utica’s three-goal lead shortly after, bringing the puck in and waiting it out before slipping one in to make the final 4-1. Peter Andersson and Markstrom earned the assists.


Markstrom stopped 40-of-41 saves on the night after allowing four goals on 16 shots in Game 2. Tom McCollum sparkled in Game 2 with 32 saves, but managed 21-of-25 in Game 3.


Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals is at 7 ET tomorrow back at Van Andel.


Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
1-Utica Comets vs. 2-Grand Rapids Griffins

Game 1 – Sun., May 24 – UTICA 2, Grand Rapids 1
Game 2 – Mon., May 25 – Grand Rapids 4, UTICA 2
Game 3 – Thu., May 28 – Utica 4, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Game 4 – Fri., May 29 – Utica at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 5 – Sun., May 31 – Utica at Grand Rapids, 5:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 2 – Grand Rapids at Utica, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 3 – Grand Rapids at Utica, 7:00
   *if necessary… All times Eastern