Mike Zalewski scored the game-winning goal in the third period to lift the Utica Comets to a 3-2 win over the Oklahoma City Barons and 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinals series of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs Monday night at the Cox Convention Center.
One minute, forty-two seconds after Oklahoma City’s Josh Winquist knotted the game at two with a power play goal at 3:08 of the third period, Utica’s Alex Biega sent a shot from the right point that deflected off Zalewski’s stick and past Barons goalie Richard Bachman for the game’s deciding score.
For a second straight game, the Barons were outshot by Utica, registering just 22 shots on net minder Jacob Markstrom to the Comets’ 28.
Unlike the series’ first two games in which the initial scoring team lost, Utica tallied the first goal of Monday’s game early in the first period. After a flurry of shots by the Barons, Utica scored on its first shot of the game when Alexandre Grenier sent a centering pass to Sven Baertschi, who shuffled the puck to Alex Friesen for a backhanded score at 1:20 of the first.
At 12:25 of the first, Grenier gave the Comets a 2-0 lead, grabbing a pass in the slot from Bobby Sanguinetti and spinning around before flipping the puck past a sprawling Bachman.
Oklahoma City got on the board at 15:10 of the first with a shorthanded goal by Andrew Miller, scoring moments after Zalewski left the penalty box during four-on-four play.
After Winquist’s goal tied the game at two, an errant clearing attempt by Oklahoma City’s Martin Marincin led to an icing call, setting up a faceoff in the Barons zone. On the ensuing play, Zalewski netted the game-winner for Utica.
With an assist on Winquist’s goal, Matt Ford registered his eighth point of the postseason, collecting at least one in all six of Oklahoma City’s playoff games.
The teams meet again for Game Four on Wednesday, May 13, in a 7 p.m. start at the Cox Convention Center.