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2023 Calder Cup Playoffs

Utica Plays Off Chances; Wins Game One

Utica Plays Off Chances; Wins Game One

 LAVAL, Qc –While the origin of the word “playoff” can be a little tricky to find, Merriam-Webster defines it as the following:

“A series of contests played after the end of the regular season to determine a championship”

In the first of a best two-of-three series, the Utica Comets and the Laval Rocket played it to definition, but for Laval, the 4-0 loss cannot be the series-defining moment.

Both teams were playing off pure energy, the Rocket powered by an electric crowd, the Comets zipping like a meteorite to start, and Reilly Walsh became the Comets first shooting star.

With Brian Halonen and  Olivier Galipeau battling in front of the net, it created the perfect distraction for a forehand/backhand move to open up a searching Cayden Primeau, who had no idea if he was in Quebec or Singapore.

That speed carried throughout the first period, no doubt, you could tell that speed was going to be the word of the series. Both teams were able to use the speed to get into the offensive zone, which resulted in a 9-8 lead in shots for Laval after 20. Nico Daws was the first-period MVP, making the saves to keep his team in it, and continued through the game.

That 1-0 lead? Utica would extend their lead in the second period after some early possession by the Rocket. Aarne Talvitie’s wrister stunned Primeau in a shot that didn’t look dangerous but was enough to fool Primeau again. 

Throughout the period, I was trying to find a fault for Laval, and it became hard to find something blatantly obvious. Sure, little turnovers or bad puck possession and whatnot are all factors,  but it was hard to find something that Utica wasn’t already doing or would be in any AHL game. The truth of the matter: things just weren’t going their way. The puck wasn’t landing flush on their stick, shots would hit a skate along the way, and they always seemed a step too far beyond the blueline when needed.

To cap off the period on a sour note for the Rocket, a poor defensive play led to a late-period goal for the 3-0 lead. Defense was nowhere to be found as Alexander Holtz fed Ryan Schmelzer from Gretzky’s office to the slot.

Going into the third, the Rocket had to feel frustrated with the way things went. The culmination of missed chances and opportunities left the Rocket feeling frustrated and downright sorry for themselves, which translated in the final minute of the second period. 

There’s a great quote from Ernest Hemingway that reads:

“There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow.” 

Which is exactly how I pictured the Rocket going into the final 20. Things needed to change, no doubt, but the two periods are done, and there’s no going back. The third, although slim chances of coming back, needed one.

When looking at the third period, it was much of the same. Nothing changed; my quote for not.

Utica would add an empty net goal for the 4-0 final.

The rebounds never bounced through, the power play has a better-than-average showing, and things just never worked out.

And that’s the playoffs. Utica was able to play off what they had given to them. Laval had nothing to play off, and nothing to show for it.

Game two is Friday in New York.

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    Zack Power covers the Toronto Marlies for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHMarlies.

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