Blogger Note: Special to Bob Howard and the Power Play Post Show.
The Manchester Monarchs had never played a game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in their history. Prior to Game 3 tonight, all the Monarchs knew about the arena known as, “The Aud” was that it was a historical building that sat in downtown Utica, located in central New York.
Once the puck dropped though, it was the equivalent of walking into a beehive full of angry bees.
There will be no Manchester Monarchs sweep. The Utica Comets take Game 3 by a score of 3-2 and trail the best of seven series two games to one.
In front of a sellout crowd of 3,835, most of which stood in line for hours for tickets to Game 3, the home crowd was deafening to start, whetting their appetite with the taste of Calder Cup Finals hockey for the first time.
Cal O’Reilly opened the scoring for the home team just after a Utica’s first power play. He created a turnover from the high slot and fired it home at 5:45 of the first period for his first goal of the playoffs, he had 16 straight assists prior to. That goal by Utica snapped a streak of eight straight games in which the Monarchs had scored first.
There was a bit of collateral damage for the Monarchs on the sequence as starting goaltender J-F Berube needed assistance off of the ice with an apparent injury. He was replaced in net by backup Patrik Bartosak, making his first appearance in the playoffs.
Utica continued the relentless pressure and made it 2-0 after the Comets won a defensive zone draw. Bobby Sanguinetti found Alexandre Grenier up the ice and Grenier streaked in and scored to double the lead for the home team at 18:58.
But Manchester got one back :37 later after a lazy defensive zone exit by the Comets that was tracked down at the blue line. Adrian Kempe collected his fifth goal of the playoffs on a rebound of a Derek Forbort shot.
The question coming into the second was whether or not the late Manchester goal from the first would carry any momentum over. The Monarchs opened in waves and Markstrom was forced into making a tough save 1:30 in on Colin Miller. They were slowly rounding into the form of the team that came in with a 2-0 series lead and was the regular season champion.
Utica slowed the pace back to their comfort level, won a face-off and Niklas Jensen scored his second of the game off of a shot from the slot to make it 3-1 Comets at 6:18 and the two goal lead was restored.
It nearly became a three goal lead, but the Monarchs made it 3-2 as they transitioned to a two on one 1:04 later when Adrian Kempe scored his second of the game. Manchester was meeting adversity with a goal, but still trailed by one.
The second period broke with the Monarchs still trailing by one, but the pressure they were building intensified.
Despite an 11-7 shot advantage by the Monarchs in the third period, the Comets were able to stymie Manchester from finding the equalizer, including killing a late Manchester power play with under five minutes to play.
Three stars were Manchester’s Adrian Kempe with two goals, Alexandre Grenier with a goal, assist and a +2 and Cal O’Reilly with a goal, an assist and a +3.
Notes… Utica’s Brandon DeFazio and Manchester’s Brian O’Neill both left the game with injuries and didn’t return.
Game 4 will be Friday from Utica followed by Game 5 Saturday night.