Alexandre Grenier broke a scoreless tie with 12:49 left in regulation and Jacob Markstrom made 35 saves for his first career playoff shutout as the Utica Comets advanced to the Western Conference Finals with a 1-0 win over the Oklahoma City Barons in Game 7 of their second-round series on Wednesday night.
The Comets, the top seed in the Western Conference, will meet second-seeded Grand Rapids for the conference championship beginning Sunday.
Game 7 was a fitting end to a terrific series between the teams, one that saw five games decided by a single goal – including a quadruple-overtime marathon in Game 1. Markstrom had a 1.76 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in the series, allowing two goals or fewer in six of the seven games; Oklahoma City’s Richard Bachman, who stopped 39 of 40 shots in Game 7, finished with a 1.75 GAA and a .948 save percentage in the series.
The game was scoreless through two periods despite the teams combining for 53 shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. Utica finally broke through at 7:11 of the third period, as Grenier collected the bouncing rebound of Travis Ehrhardt’s point shot and put it over Bachman’s glove for his fourth goal of the playoffs and fourth of the series.
The Barons could not get a puck past Markstrom (7-5), whose stop on Matthew Ford’s close-range shot with 48.3 seconds remaining helped seal the win. Markstrom improved to 5-0 this postseason following a loss, and became just the second goaltender in AHL history with a 1-0 shutout in a Game 7, following Cleveland’s Johnny Bower in the 1953 Calder Cup Finals vs. Pittsburgh.
Oklahoma City was 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 7, while Utica was 0-for-2.
Western Conference Semifinals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
1-Utica Comets vs. 6-Oklahoma City Barons
Game 1 – Thu., May 7 – Oklahoma City 2, UTICA 1 (4OT)
Game 2 – Fri., May 8 – UTICA 2, Oklahoma City 1 (OT)
Game 3 – Mon., May 11 – Utica 3, OKLAHOMA CITY 2
Game 4 – Wed., May 13 – OKLAHOMA CITY 7, Utica 4
Game 5 – Thu., May 14 – Utica 3, OKLAHOMA CITY 1
Game 6 – Mon., May 18 – Oklahoma City 2, UTICA 1
Game 7 – Wed., May 20 – UTICA 1, Oklahoma City 0