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Comets Calder Cup Run: Comets look to take 3-1 series lead after grand performance from Alexandre Grenier in Game 3.

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Alexandre Grenier and the Utica Comets were able to crack Richard Bachman by tallying three goals on the red-hot Barons goaltender in Game 3. Grenier recorded his second straight multi-point game by assisting on Alex Friesen's opening tally only 1:20 into the 1st and then scored his own at 12:35. Jacob Markstrom held the fort stopping 20 of 22 shots. Utica native Mike Zalewski scored the game winning goal to give the Comets a 3-2 victory over the Barons. Game 4 goes tonight at 8 PM EST at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Courtesy of the UticaComets.com

Courtesy of the UticaComets.com

If there's one player Canucks fans should keep on eye on in September come training camp that doesn't have the hype as a first-round draft pick, it has to be Alexandre Grenier. Grenier  (2-5-7) is establishing himself as a late blooming power-forward with a great pedigree of soft hands for a giant of his stature. His underrated playmaking ability and heavy shot could turn a few heads in the Canucks management group if he's given a fair chance to prove that his skills can translate to the National Hockey League level.

The 6-foot-five 210 lbs native of Laval, Quebec followed up his Game 2 overtime heroics by contributing with a goal and an assist in the Comets 3-2 regulation win over Bachman and the Oklhahoma City Barons on Monday night.

Coming into this game, Bachman had put aside 92 of 95 shots Utica threw at him in the series, with Grenier factoring in on two of the goals.

Grenier found Sven Baertschi (1-6-7) with a crisp pass in front the Barons net just over a minute into the first frame. Baertschi was able to back Bachman deep into his net as he came down on the Oklahoma goaltender forcing Bachman to go into the VH position. Baertschi wisely dished it off to Alex Friesen (1-3-4) standing to Bachman's left for an easy tap in. It marked Friesen's first of the playoffs and kept Baertschi scoring at a point per game rate through seven games.

Eleven minutes later, Grenier displayed his marvellously underrated soft hands with perhaps the prettiest goal of the Comets Calder Cup playoff run. Cal O'Reilly (0-10-10) started the play by taking a hit along the boards as he dished it off to Bobby Sanguinett (1-3-4) at the Comets blue line. Sanguinetti found Grenier at the top of Bachman's crease with his stick on the ice anticipating the pass. Grenier -- being a right-handed shot -- was facing Sanguinetti as he received the pass to Bachman's right and needed to spin around so square around to complete the scoring chance. Grenier effectvily dragged the puck through the crease and fired the puck past Bachman after waiting for Bachman to sprawl out in desperation mode. O'Reilly picked up his team leading 10th playoff point, which have all come as helpers.

The chemistry Grenier has found playing first line minutes alongside O'Reilly has been astronomical for his development. Alexandre spent most of the season playing up and down the lineup, but eventually settled onto the first line at the start of March being centered by O'Reilly and having Hunter Shinkaruk ride shotgun on left-wing (Shinkaruk was demoted to the fourth line to start Game 3, with Sven Baertschi moving to the top line and Nicklas Jensen playing left-winger on the second line with Alex Friesen and Cory Conacher). Since Travis Green united O'Reilly and Grenier together, Grenier has produced 8 goals and 16 assists in 24 games out of a possible 29 games.

The Barons would strike back rather quickly, as C.J Stretch caught the Comets deep in their own zone as they started a power play by finding Andrew Miller with all the time and space in the world as Miller skated rather seamlessly into the high slot and sniped one high glove past Markstrom.

The middle period would equate to zero goals, with the Comets outshooting OKC 11-4.

The Barons would make it a one-goal game at 3:08  in the third period when Andrew Miller connected with Josh Winquist on the power play. Matthew Ford was able to put the puck on his forehand after a nice backhand deke that forced the Comets defencemen to drop down to take away the pass. Ford was able to find Miller who then, alertly, backhanded a quick pass to Winquist, who was parked across the Comets crease uncontested, and buried it past a diving Jacob Markstrom.

The Comets would restore their lead only 1:42 later when the pride of New Hartford, New York -- a stone's through away from Utica -- Mike Zalewski was able to get his blade on a wrist shot from well out off the stick of Alex Biega that went through a maze of bodies. It marked Zalewski's first goal since February 7th in a game where he put up two tallies against the Adirondack Flames; Zalewski finished the regular season with only one more goal in 54 games.

"It felt great to score again," Zalewski told Mark Caswell Jr, director of communication of the Utica Comets, after the game. "Our line had a few chances throughout the game, so it was nice for us to contribute again."

Zalewski's goal would hold up to be the game winner, as Jacob Markstrom was able to fend off the Barons for the rest of the final stanza including a flurry of chances in the final ten seconds when Oklahoma pulled their goalie on a man advantage.

Markstrom imroved his playoff record to 5-3 with a 1.66 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.

Seven of the eight Comets playoff games have been one-goal games, something head coach Travis Green knows Markstrom is accustomed to handle.

"Marky was good tonight, Grenn told reports post-game. " We've come to expect that."

AHL Game #K-3
Utica 3 at Oklahoma City 2
Cox Convention Center
May 11, 2015
Referee: Tom Chmielewski (43)
Terry Koharski (10)
Linesmen: John Grandt (98)
Randy Sappo (13)
Three Stars:
1. UTI - A. Grenier
2. OKC - A. Miller
3. OKC - J. Winquist
Game Start: 7:03 PM CDT
Game End: 9:27 PM
Game Length: 2:24
Attendance: 1470


SCORING 1 2 3 T
Utica 2 0 1 3
Oklahoma City 1 0 1 2
SHOTS 1 2 3 T
Utica 9 11 8 28
Oklahoma City 12 4 6 22
PP PIM PTS
Utica 0 / 5 14 min / 7 inf 3 G + 6 A = 9 Pts
Oklahoma City 1 / 7 10 min / 5 inf 2 G + 3 A = 5 Pts


V-H # Per Team Time Goals Assists Type On Ice (+/-)
1 - 0 1 1st UTI 1:20 A. Friesen (1) S. Baertschi, A. Grenier V 8 26 28 44 47 H 3 10 12 19 29
2 - 0 2 1st UTI 12:35 A. Grenier (2) B. Sanguinetti, C. O'Reilly V 2 6 16 28 47 H 6 8 17 18 27
2 - 1 3 1st OKC 15:10 A. Miller (2) C. Stretch SH V 24 26 44 47 89 H 3 14 17 29
2 - 2 4 3rd OKC 3:08 J. Winquist (2) A. Miller, M. Ford PP V 16 24 26 40 H 11 17 19 29 37
3 - 2 5 3rd UTI 4:50 M. Zalewski (1) A. Biega, B. DeFazio V 2 3 9 14 24 H 7 15 20 27 28


UTICA ROSTER
No Name G A +/- Sh PIM
G 30 J. Eriksson 0 0 0 0 0
G 33 J. Markstrom 0 0 0 0 0
D 2 T. Ehrhardt 0 0 +2 0 0
D 3 A. Biega 0 1 +1 0 0
D 6 B. Sanguinetti 0 1 +1 3 0
C 8 A. Friesen 1 0 +1 1 2
LW 9 H. Shinkaruk 0 0 +1 0 0
LW 10 B. Gaunce 0 0 0 0 0
C 14 M. Zalewski 1 0 +1 3 2
C 16 C. O'Reilly 0 1 +1 0 0
RW 17 N. Jensen 0 0 0 3 0
RW 24 B. DeFazio 0 1 0 1 0
D 26 F. Corrado 0 0 0 0 0
RW 28 A. Grenier 1 1 +2 3 2
RW 34 C. Bancks 0 0 0 1 0
C 36 W. Hamilton 0 0 0 1 0
D 40 P. Andersson 0 0 0 3 0
D 44 A. Clendening 0 0 0 2 4
LW 47 S. Baertschi 0 1 +1 4 2
LW 89 C. Conacher 0 0 -1 3 0
Team: 2
Totals: 3 6 10 28 14
UTICA GOALIES
No Name Min SH SVS GA
33 J. Markstrom (W) 59:36 22 20 2
Totals: 59:36 22 20 2
OKLAHOMA CITY ROSTER
No Name G A +/- Sh PIM
G 31 L. Brossoit 0 0 0 0 0
G 32 R. Bachman 0 0 0 0 0
D 3 B. Davidson 0 0 0 2 0
D 6 D. Musil 0 0 -1 0 4
C 7 J. Khaira 0 0 -1 0 0
LW 8 B. Winchester 0 0 -1 0 0
LW 10 C. Hamilton 0 0 -1 2 0
RW 11 M. Ford 0 1 0 0 2
LW 12 R. Hamilton 0 0 -1 1 0
C 14 C. Stretch 0 1 +1 0 0
D 15 J. Oesterle 0 0 -1 1 0
RW 17 A. Miller 1 1 0 2 0
D 18 D. Simpson 0 0 -1 0 0
C 19 J. Williams 0 0 -1 2 2
C 20 C. Jones 0 0 -1 0 0
LW 27 M. Moroz 0 0 -2 0 0
D 28 M. Marincin 0 0 -1 0 2
D 29 B. Hunt 0 0 0 4 0
LW 36 K. Jones 0 0 0 1 0
LW 37 J. Winquist 1 0 0 7 0
Team:
Totals: 2 3 -11 22 10
OKLAHOMA CITY GOALIES
No Name Min SH SVS GA
32 R. Bachman (L) 58:51 28 25 3
Totals: 58:51 28 25 3
PENALTIES
P T Player M Offense Time
1st V A. Clendening 2.00 Delay of game 1:43
1st H D. Musil 2.00 Interference 6:43
1st V A. Grenier 2.00 Slashing 9:57
1st V M. Zalewski 2.00 Tripping 13:06
1st H J. Williams 2.00 Interference 13:41
1st H M. Ford 2.00 Hooking 16:50
2nd V A. Clendening 2.00 Delay of game 4:41
2nd H M. Marincin 2.00 Cross-checking 8:08
2nd V S. Baertschi 2.00 Hooking 13:33
2nd H D. Musil 2.00 Cross-checking 19:20
3rd V A. Friesen 2.00 Tripping 2:08
3rd V Served by A. Grenier 2.00 Bench minor - Too many men 19:48

Marsktrom appeared on TSN 1040 on Tuesday and remained rather discreet about his future within the Vancouver Canucks organization. You cab have a listen here.

The Comets will try to get their power play going as they've failed to score on the man advantage in the second round so far.  Utica's power play is converting at just 13.9% (5-for-36) in the playoffs, an area they'd like to improve after finishing eighteenth in the regular season converting on 16.1% of their opportunities.

Utica will look to go up 3-1 in the series and take the upper hold against the Barons when they square off for Game 4 tonight. Puck drop is at 8 PM EST.

Division Realignment

Courtesy of the UticaComets.com

Courtesy of the UticaComets.com

The American Hockey League announced Tuesday afternoon that the league will be under going conference and division realignment for the 2015/2016 season. The Comets will be moved to the North Division inside the AHL's Eastern Conference with their fellow upstate New York rivals the Albany Devils, Binghamton Senators, Rochester Americans and Syracuse Crunch, plus the Toronto Marlies and St. John's IceCaps.

This move will certainly save the Canucks and Comets organization thousands of dollars in travel and accomdation expenses as they'll be moving around more frequently in their own division and confernece. There are rumours floating around the Comets may not even play the newly designed Californian Pacific division, and that the Californian teams may only play 68 games in the regular season as opposed to the rest of the league still participating in a full 76-game season schedule.  The schedule will be released at some point later in the summer.

Comets team president had the following to say about the Comets playing the the North division, courtesy of the Comets website:

"We couldn't be more thrilled that the Eastern Conference North Division is now comprise of all the five teams from New York State. This will enhance not only the lives of the players, coaches, and staff members involved, but also the fans, who will experience even deeper rivalries than before. The realignment will also help hockey communities in New York State as a whole, all the way from professional teams to the youth and grassroots programs."

The AHL divisions can be found below:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NYI)
Hartford Wolf Pack (NYR)
Hershey Bears (WSH)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (PHI)
Portland Pirates (FLA
Providence Bruins (BOS)
Springfield Falcons (ARI)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT)

North Division
Albany Devils (NJ)
Binghamton Senators (OTT)
Rochester Americans (BUF)
St. John’s IceCaps (MTL)
Syracuse Crunch (TB)
Toronto Marlies (TOR)
Utica Comets (VAN)

Western Conference

Central Division

Charlotte Checkers (CAR)
Chicago Wolves (STL)
Grand Rapids Griffins (DET)
Iowa Wild (MIN)
Lake Erie Monsters (CBJ)
Manitoba Moose (WPG)
Milwaukee Admirals (NSH)
Rockford IceHogs (CHI)

Pacific Division

Bakersfield Condors (EDM)
Ontario Reign (LA)
San Antonio Rampage (COL)
San Diego Gulls (ANA)
San Jose Barracuda (SJ)
Stockton Heat (CGY)
Texas Stars (DAL)