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Comets Round 2 preview

by Tyson Giuriato / Vancouver Canucks

It will be the minor league affiliates of the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers doing battle in the second round of the AHL Playoffs as the Utica Comets take on the Oklahoma City Barons.

The Comets are coming off a thrilling series victory over the Chicago Wolves in the opening round of the post-season, a series that went the distance with the Comets prevailing in Game 5. Meanwhile, the Barons made quick work of San Antonio, sweeping the Rampage in three games.

The series will be a best-of-seven and use a 2-3-2 format, with the Comets holding home-ice advantage.

Game 1 – Thursday, May 7th – 4 pm PT @ Utica
Game 2 – Friday, May 8th – 4 pm PT @ Utica
Game 3 – Monday, May 11th – 5 pm PT @ OK City
Game 4 – Wednesday, May 13th – 5 pm PT @ OK City
**Game 5 – Thursday, May 14th – 5 pm PT @ OK City
**Game 6 – Monday, May 18th – 4 pm PT @ Utica
**Game 7 – Wednesday, May 20th – 4 pm PT @ Utica
** If necessary

By the numbers

103 – Number of points the Comets had during the regular season after posting a 47-20-7-2 record.

90 – Number of points the Barons had during the regular season as they went 41-27-5-3.

3 – Number of points the Comets gained in their two-game season series against the Barons. Oklahoma took the first game by a score of 1-0 in OT, while the Comets were 4-2 winners in in February.

224 – Goals scored by the Barons during the regular season, five more than the Comets, which finished with 219.

182 – Goals given up by the Comets during the regular season, as opposed to the 212 that the Barons surrendered.

7 – Assists by forward Cal O’Reilly in the Comets’ first-round series against the Wolves, which leads all AHL players.

2 – New additions to the Comets roster as the Canucks’ 2014 first-round picks Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann join the squad after their respective junior clubs were eliminated in the third round of the CHL Playoffs.

Oklahoma City scouting report

“They had a real good regular season right up until they lost guys to call-ups and injuries,” said Comets head coach, Travis Green. “They have a real offensive back-end, four good lines and a two good goalies. They just swept a team that was one of the top teams in the league all year.

“They have a very mobile defence and we definitely have to be aware of that.”

Keys to a Comets series win

Special Teams: The Comets need to win the special teams battle against the Barons, who went a staggering 5-for-11 (45.5%) on the man-advantage on home ice during the first round and 5-for-14 (35.7%) overall. At the other end of the ice, Oklahoma City went 10-for-11 (90.9%) on the penalty kill.

“Special teams is going to be real important,” said Green. “They have a real good power play with defencemen that can shoot the puck, along with some good forwards on the half wall. We are going to have to play disciplined. We will play hard, but need to keep our composure.”

Noise: Comets fans are sure making a name for themselves around the hockey world. From waiting at the rink for the team bus to get back at midnight, to the UTICA chants, to whiting-out the Aud for the playoffs. The players feel that energy and crowd noise could play a big factor in this series, especially with the Comets having home ice and the Barons averaging just 1,764 fans a game so far in these playoffs, in a 13,000 seat venue.

“It’s pretty special what we have witnessed here,” said Green. “The fans are more than into the game. They are very passionate. It’s a small community that has really rallied behind this team. You almost have to be here to really feel it. It is really special what these players are getting to play in front of. Players like to feel that vibe and that energy. At bench level, you wouldn’t know if you were in Madison Square Garden or Utica, NY.”

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