Albany struck early and often on Thursday night, overmatching their in-state rivals for 40 minutes and then holding on to advance to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Matt Lorito and Joseph Blandisi scored 13 seconds apart to give the Devils a two-goal lead just 4:06 into the game and Blake Pietila finished the night with two goals and two assists as Albany defeated Utica, 6-3, in Game 4 of their North Division semifinal series at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Devils eliminated the Comets three games to one, the first series victory by a New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate since the Albany River Rats reached the conference finals in 1998.
Mike Sislo’s second goal of the series made it 3-0 in favor Albany at the 11:02 mark of the first period, and after the Devils killed off a lengthy two-man disadvantage midway through the second, Reid Boucher scored off a turnover to open up a 4-0 cushion.
Alexandre Grenier got the Comets on the board with 3:27 left in the second period, but Pietila’s shorthanded goal with 29.1 seconds remaining made it 5-1 through 40 minutes.
Utica swarmed in the third period, getting goals from Alex Friesen and T.J. Hensick, but fell short in their bid to force a deciding Game 5. Pietila’s empty-net goal with 2:17 to play finished off the scoring.
Scott Wedgewood (3-1) stopped 32 of 35 shots on the night to pick up the win for the Devils. Joe Cannata (1-1) allowed five goals on 28 shots in two periods of work for the Comets.
North Division Semifinals – Series “D” (best-of-5)
N2-Albany Devils vs. N3-Utica Comets
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 22 – ALBANY 3, Utica 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 23 – ALBANY 5, Utica 1
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 26 – UTICA 2, Albany 1 (OT)
Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Albany 6, UTICA 3
Water bottle pop
Group hug pic.twitter.com/qku3lomi7b
— AHL (@TheAHL) April 28, 2016