Comets taking 3-2 series lead home

Jacob Markstrom made 32 saves as the Utica Comets moved to within one win of the Calder Cup Finals with a 3-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 5 of the Western Conference championship series on Sunday evening.

After winning two of three at Van Andel Arena, the Comets head back home with a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is set for Tuesday night and Game 7, if necessary, would be Wednesday, both back in Utica.

Markstrom and the Comets are now 7-0 this postseason following a loss.

The Comets grabbed a 1-0 lead just 2:14 into Game 5 as Brendan Gaunce took a wrister from the right-wing wall that was deflected in by Wacey Hamilton for his second goal of the playoffs.

The Griffins tied it at 1-1 on a power play at the 4:20 mark, taking advantage of a wild bounce off the boards. Tyler Bertuzzi’s initial shot was stopped by Markstrom but Mark Zengerle banged in the rebound for his second goal of the postseason.

Utica regained the lead less than two minutes later, with Hunter Shinkaruk poking in a loose puck during a scramble in front of the Grand Rapids net at 6:07 of the first.

The Comets then made it 3-1 at 11:47 as Gaunce forced a turnover behind the net and fed Bobby Sanguinetti, who snapped home a quick shot from in close to give Utica its second three-goal period of the series.

The scored remained unchanged for the remainder of the first period and most of the second before Grand Rapids took advantage of another power play at 19:14. Dylan Larkin found room out of the right-wing corner and tucked a shot under the crossbar for his third goal of the series and fifth point in five games since joining the Griffins.

Markstrom (10-7) closed the door the rest of the way, stopping all eight Grand Rapids shots in the third period.

Tom McCollum (9-5) finished with 18 saves as the Griffins owned a 34-21 edge in shots on goal.

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 – GRAND RAPIDS 3, Utica 2 (OT)
Game 5 – Sun., May 31 – Utica 3, GRAND RAPIDS 2
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