Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Three Observations

The Utica Comets lost their second straight game by a score of 4-3 in overtime in game three on Sunday, and are now on the brink of elimination.

After a season where seemingly everything has gone right, the Utica Comets now find themselves in serious dire straits. The best of five North Division semifinal series now stands at two games to one in Rochester’s advantage after they defeated the Eastern Conference regular-season champion Comets in front of over 10,000 people at the Blue Cross Arena. The Comets will need to win game four on Tuesday night at the same venue to avoid elimination from the Calder Cup Playoffs.

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The home team started out hot outshooting the visitors seven to one through the first six minutes. Despite the shot differential, it was the Comets who got on the board first when AJ Greer beat Rochester goaltender Aaron Dell with a backhand shot from the slot at the 7:34 mark. The Americans tied the game with 5:26 left when Sean Malone put a rebound off of a shot by Jimmy Schuldt past Comet’s goaltender Akira Schmid (who was making his first appearance of the series). A little over two minutes later, the Americans took the lead on a goal by Lukas Rousek and the first period ended with the home team leading by a score of 2-1.

Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans Playoff Preview and Prediction

The Comets tied the game at two in the second period when Fabian Zetterlund got his first goal of the playoffs when he rifled a one-timer from the left circle off a feed from Robbie Russo into the Amerks net on the power play. Utica continued to pepper Dell with shots after the Zetterlund goal, but the Americans took the lead once again with 4:38 remaining in the period when a JJ Peterka shot from the bottom of the right circle was redirected by Brandon Biro in the Utica crease.

Undeterred, the Comets continued to pressure the home team and it paid off as with two minutes left in the frame they tied the score at three with some help from the Amerks. Dell lost control of the puck after a pile-up at the right side of his crease and Jack Quinn accidentally kicked it into his own net, much to the dismay of the huge crowd assembled. The goal was credited to Graeme Clarke, who was playing in his first game of the series after missing the first two in Utica.

The home team controlled play in the third period, outshooting the Comets by a margin of 13-5, but neither team could light the lamp. With fourteen seconds left in regulation, Utica’s Robbie Russo took a checking to the head penalty to put the Americans on the power play to close out the period and start the overtime period with 1:46 of time with the man advantage. Akira Schmid made a sparkling save on a point-blank chance by JJ Peterka and looked like Utica might survive the American’s power play. Rochester, however, proved why they are one of the best teams in the AHL with the man advantage as with seconds remaining on the power play Peyton Krebs fed Arttu Ruotsalainen for a one-timer from the right circle past Schmid to win the game.

The Utica Comets now have their backs to the wall, as a loss on Tuesday night will end what has been a dream season up to this point. Here are the three observations from this game:

Akira Schmid deserved a better fate.

Akira Schmid had a fantastic first season in the American Hockey League, as he was among the league leaders in all the major goaltending categories for most of the season. When Nico Daws returned from the New Jersey Devils in mid-April, however, he was relegated to the backup role. Daws started both of the playoff games in Utica but with a back to back games, two and three it was Schmid’s turn in Rochester, and looked really good.

Schmid made thirty-five saves against the Americans on Sunday, and although he gave up four goals he didn’t have much of a chance to stop any of them. Coach Dineen will have a very tough choice to make as to who will be his starting goaltender on Tuesday night, but after Schmid’s performance on Sunday, it would not be surprising to see #93 manning the crease for the Comet’s biggest game of the season.

The Comets have to figure out how to stop JJ Peterka.

JJ Peterka of the Rochester Americans has had an outstanding rookie season, compiling twenty-eight goals and forty assists in seventy regular-season games. That stellar play has continued in the playoffs, as in five games played he has four goals and four assists. Against Utica, he has been particularly dangerous, with four goals and two assists. If the Comets are going to get this series back to Utica for game five, they will have to figure out how to contain Peterka.

Utica really misses Reilly Walsh and Frederik Gauthier.

Defenseman Reilly Walsh played in game one against Rochester and recorded two assists in the Comet’s 6-3 victory. He has since missed games two and three with an undisclosed injury and it is an obvious big loss for the team. Walsh is so important to the Comets in regards to breakouts and transitions out of their zone and is one of the main cogs in their offense. Without Walsh in the Utica lineup, Rochester has been able to put extra pressure on the Comet’s end without having to worry about him burning them on a breakout.

Center Frederik Gauthier has been out of the Utica lineup since the beginning of April, so the team has time to adjust to life without him. Even so, his faceoff prowess along with his defensive and penalty-killing abilities is sorely missed against a high-flying offensive team like the Americans. If the Comets can get one or both of them back for game four it would be a huge boost to their chances to tie the series and continue their season.

Episode #77 will be live at 6:00 pm EDT on Marty’s Illegal Stick YouTube channel and Facebook page with our Utica Comets game 4 pregame primer! With their backs against the wall, the Comets MUST win and the guys from Bahl’s Army and Neil Villapiano of the Devils State of Mind Podcast join us to break it all down! Get ready for the game by joining us live one hour before the puck drops!

2 thoughts on “Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Three Observations

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  1. This is my humble opinion – Thought when the players who were assigned to NJ, returned to the Comets, the 13-0 team would gel again. That does not seem to be the case. Passing is not accurate and shots are not taken when opportunities arise. The Comets seem to be trying hard to find the “perfect” shot, rather than putting pucks on net, then crashing for rebounds.

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