by Pete Richmire

Utica, NY - The Comets (2-0-0) entered the Adirondack Bank Center on Monday evening looking to become the only team in this season's Playoff Semifinal Round to sweep their series and they used a come-from-behind effort to beat Utica (0-2-0) 7-5 to advance to the Conference Finals against the #4 Seed Milwaukee Wave. With the win tonight, both of the Eastern Conference's top seeds have been eliminated from the playoffs with UCFC joining the Monterrey Flash on the sidelines.

As cliche as it sounds, tonight was a tale of two halves as Utica controlled much of the momentum in the first half, though they held just a one goal lead at the break. The teams combined for five goals in the first 15 minutes of play with Utica getting tallies from Ronaldinho Diniz and Taylor Walter Bond. Bond accounted for two of Utica's three goals. 

After Diniz opened scoring for the home squad, Chad Vandegriffe found Zach Reget just outside the box on the right side of UCFC goalkeeper Andrew Coughlin. Reget spun around a defender and slid a shot off the keeper's foot and inside the near post to make it a 1-1 game with 7:53 left in the opening frame. 

Bond beat Kansas City keeper Nicolau Neto on back-to-back efforts less than two minutes apart to give Utica a 3-1 lead with 4:18 still to play in the first.

Kansas City got back within one on a low angle shot from Nacho Flores in the left corner to cut UCFC's lead to 3-2 just inside the two-minute mark on the clock in the first. For Flores, it was the first of three goals in the game and his third of the post-season and turned out to be the final goal of the first half.

Rian Marques, who finished with three assists in the game, was issued a blue card for kicking with less than a minute to play in the second quarter and UCFC was able to convert on the ensuing power play on a marker from Mo Ndiaye to open scoring in the second half. It was the first of six goals the teams combined for in the third frame.

Trailing 4-2 after Utica's power play goal, the Comets went on a rally beginning with a power play goal of their own. After UCFC's Dylan Hundelt was sent to the penalty Box for tripping, it took just a minute for Marques to connect with a wide-open Reget to bring Kansas City back within one at 4-3 with 11:46 to go in the third. 

A loose ball scramble in front of the UCFC goal led to the next tally from the Comets. Vandegriffe took advantage of the chaos in front of Coughlin and his goal tied the game at 4-4 at the third quarter media time out.

Flores' second goal of the night and what would turn out to be the game-winning goal from Henry Ramirez, both assisted by Marques, put the Comets up 6-4 with 3:29 to go in the third. 

Utica notched their final goal of the game, the second from Diniz to close out scoring in the third quarter with Kansas City up by a 6-5 margin as the game headed to the final quarter of regulation.

After a six-goal third, only one goal was scored in the fourth and it was the third of the game for Flores, who finished with five goals in the series, and game the Comets a 7-5 lead. In addition to the only goal of the final 15 minutes of play, Kansas City also held UCFC to no shots in the frame. The Comets out-shot Utica 20-17 in the game.

The Comets will now face the Milwaukee Wave in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 1 taking place in Milwaukee on Friday at 6:35 CDT. The series will shift to Cable Dahmer Arena on Monday, April 22 at 6:35 pm CDT for Game 2 and a potential 15-Minute Knock Out Game if needed.