UTICA, N.Y. (theahl.com) … The Utica Comets fed off the energy of their home fans and held on for a 3-2 win over the Manchester Monarchs in Game 3 of the 2015 Calder Cup Finals on Wednesday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Monarchs still hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 set for Friday night at the Aud (7 p.m. ET, AHL Live, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio).
Utica dominated the opening period of their first home game of the series, and Cal O’Reilly sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy at the 5:45 mark of the opening frame. O’Reilly collected a bouncing puck and snapped a shot past Jean-Francois Berube, his first goal of the playoffs to go with his league-leading 16 postseason assists.
At the 7:51 mark of the first, Berube had to be helped off the ice after going down with an apparent injury, and Patrik Bartosak took over between the pipes for his first appearance since the Monarchs’ regular-season finale on Apr. 19.
Bartosak stopped the first seven shots he faced, but Alexandre Grenier gave the Comets a two-goal lead with 1:02 remaining on a snap shot from the right-wing circle. It was Grenier’s first goal of the Finals and sixth of the playoffs.
Facing a two-goal deficit for the first time since Game 3 of the conference semifinals vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Monarchs quickly got one back before intermission as Adrian Kempe slid home a rebound with 24.9 seconds remaining. It was Kempe’s first goal of the series and his fifth of the postseason.
Shots on goal through 20 minutes were 17-8 in favor of the Comets.
Utica went ahead 3-1 at 6:18 of the second period off a face-off win to the right of Bartosak. Grenier fed Nicklas Jensen from the half wall and Jensen put a shot through traffic for his second of the series and fourth of the playoffs.
Just 64 seconds later, Kempe picked up his second goal of the night, driving to the net and taking a shot that trickled over Jacob Markstrom’s pads to cut the deficit back to one.
Utica successfully killed off a Manchester power play late in the second period, and the Comets took a 3-2 lead into the locker room after 40 minutes.
The Monarchs continued to mount pressure in the third period, but the Comets denied another late Manchester man advantage and Markstrom made 11 of his 32 saves in the final frame to preserve the win.
Bartosak, making his first career playoff appearance, stopped 27 of 29 shots in relief of Berube (8 saves) as Utica finished with a 38-34 advantage in shots on goal.
The Monarchs were 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 3. The Comets were 0-for-1.
NOTES: In addition to losing Berube, Manchester played most of Game 3 without regular-season AHL MVP Brian O’Neill, who was injured early in the first period… Comets forward Brandon DeFazio left with 7:34 remaining after a collision with the Moanrchs’ David Van der Gulik… All 11 of the Comets’ home games this postseason have been sellouts at the Aud; Games 4 and 5 are already sold out as well… The Monarchs’ previous high for shots allowed in regulation of a playoff game this spring was 29, in Game 4 of their second-round series at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton; the Comets had 31 shots after two periods tonight… Wacey Hamilton returned to the Comets lineup after missing Game 2; he replaced Jake Virtanen (ill)… Jeff Lerg, signed to a professional tryout contract by the Monarchs after Game 2, dressed as Manchester’s emergency back-up following Berube’s injury… The Monarchs are now 0-4 in the playoffs when allowing the game’s first goal; they are 13-0 when scoring first… Utica improved to 8-1 following a loss in the postseason.
2015 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
E1-Manchester Monarchs vs. W1-Utica Comets
Game 1 – Sat., June 6 – MANCHESTER 3, Utica 2 (OT) | Recap/highlights
Game 2 – Sun., June 7 – MANCHESTER 2, Utica 1 (OT) | Recap/highlights
Game 3 – Wed., June 10 – UTICA 3, Manchester 2
Game 4 – Fri., June 12 – Manchester at Utica, 7:00
Game 5 – Sat., June 13 – Manchester at Utica, 7:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 16 – Utica at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 17 – Utica at Manchester, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern