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Comets Round 4 preview

by Tyson Giuriato / Vancouver Canucks

The Utica Comets open up their best-of-seven AHL Calder Cup Final against the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday.

On paper, the Monarchs hold the advantage in almost every statistical category. They have won eight of their past nine post-season games after sweeping the Hartford Wolf Pack in the Eastern Conference Final. They feature the AHL’s regular season scoring champion, Brian O’Neill, along with 23-year-old Jordan Weal, who leads all post-season skaters with 19 points in 14 games.

But we have heard all of this before. Grand Rapids was the highest scoring team in the AHL, but only managed 11 goals in six games against the Comets in Round 3 and failed to score more than one on three occasions.

The Comets may not be the flashiest team on paper, having only had one forward in the Top 70 of regular season scoring, but they make up for it with depth, grit, hard work, and Jacob Markstrom. The 25-year-old Markstrom has been nothing short of amazing this season. He is the key to the Comets’ success. If the 25-year-old goaltender continues to only give up one or two goals a game, and the Comets keep getting production from all over the lineup, Utica will be crowned 2015 Calder Cup Champions.

All games can be streamed free on-line at ahllive.com with code "CALDERCUP"; you can watch on your desktop or laptop through ahllive.com, or download the official AHL Live app from iTunes or Google Play to watch on your mobile device or tablet.

Game 1 – Saturday, June 6th – 3pm PT @ Manchester
Game 2 – Sunday, June 7th – 2pm PT @ Manchester
Game 3 – Wednesday, June 10th – 4pm PT @ Utica
Game 4 – Friday, June 12th – 4pm PT @ Utica
**Game 5 – Saturday, June 13th – 4pm PT @ Utica
**Game 6 – Tuesday, June 16th – 4pm PT @ Manchester
**Game 7 – Wednesday, June 17th – 4pm PT @ Manchester
** If necessary

By the numbers

109 –Number of points the Monarchs had during the regular season after they posted a 50-17-6-3 record.

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

0 – Number of times the Comets and Monarchs faced each other in the regular season.

400 – Approximate kilometers between Utica and Manchester. The Comets will bus to Manchester. No planes needed for this series.

20.7 – Power play percentage by the Monarchs during the regular season, tops in the AHL. The Comets finished 19th at 16.1%

86.3 – Penalty kill percentage by the Comets during the regular season, seventh in the AHL. The Monarchs finished 16th at 83.6%

1.87 – Goals-against average of Jacob Markstrom during the post-season.

.931 – Markstrom’s save-percentage during the post-season.

Manchester scouting report

“You don’t need to look much further than where they finished in the league,” said Comets head coach, Travis Green. “They are a good team, with a lot of scoring threats, a good backend and good goalie. It will be a tough challenge, but it’s supposed to be a tough challenge when you get to this point in the playoffs.”

Keys to a Comets series win

Play the Utica way: The Comets don’t need to change a thing. The key is to stick to the game plan they have used all post-season. Play defensively sound hockey, get in on the forecheck, force turnovers and make the opposition pay for their mistakes.

“You have got to play your best,” said Green. “We need to play our best, stick to what we do best and execute. We are playing really good hockey right now, our guys are excited to play, they believe in how they have to play to have success and we have had some individuals play their best games of the year in the playoffs, and you need that. You need contributions from all over your lineup at this time of year.”

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