Heading into Game 5 of the AHL's Western Conference final, the series between the Utica Comets and Grand Rapids Griffins was tied 2-2, but the Comets had the opportunity to put the Griffins on the brink of elimination with a victory. And with the series set to shift back to Utica for Game 6, that's exactly what the Comets -- and the stick of Jacob Markstrom -- did.
With the Comets in control of the game early thanks to first-period tallies from Wacey Hamilton, Hunter Shinkaruk and Bobby Sanguinetti, it looked like Game 5 was firmly in Utica's grasp. Though Griffins right winger Mark Zengerle had broken up the Comets' scoring and had Grand Rapids within two, the two-goal spread gave Utica some insurance.
If it weren't for Markstrom, however, Griffins blueliner Ryan Sproul would have made the contest much closer. Less than five minutes into the second period, Markstrom made a reaching stick save to deny Sproul's shot at a nearly wide-open net. Check it out:
The paddle stop was one of 32 Markstrom made on the evening and considering how his 2014-15 AHL campaign went, it's not surprising he came up big when the Comets needed him most.
For the Comets this season, Markstrom suited up for 32 games and posted an incredible 1.88 goals-against average and .934 save percentage to go along with five shutouts and a 22-7-2 record. If it weren't for the play of Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins goaltender Matt Murray -- the rookie netminder posted a mind-boggling 12 shutouts -- or that Markstrom was called up to the NHL on a few occasions, he would have had a good shot at being named the AHL's goaltender of the year.
Markstrom has followed up his stellar regular season with a 10-7 playoff record, as well as a 1.97 GAA and .928 SP. Of goaltenders still remaining in the chase for the Calder Cup, Markstrom's numbers are the best of the bunch.