The Utica Comets start a three games in three days stretch on Friday night when they travel to Syracuse to play the Crunch.
The Utica Comets will be facing a tall task this weekend starting on Friday night. Not only will they play three games in three nights, they will be doing so without their leading goal scorer. Alexander Holtz, who leads the Comets in goals scored with five, was recalled by the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. The Devils currently have two games left on a California road trip before returning home to the Prudential Center for a game against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
The Utica Comets will also not be receiving the goaltending reinforcement they were expecting. Scott Wedgewood, who was expected to be in Utica this season, did not clear waivers after being made available on Wednesday. He was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes, leaving Nico Daws and Akira Schmid as the clear cut goaltending tandem for the Comets.
Despite the loss of Holtz, the Comets still have a very busy weekend of hockey to play. On Friday night they play their arch-rival the Syracuse Crunch at the Upstate Medical University Center in the Salt City. Following the Syracuse game, they come back home to the Adirondack Bank Center on Saturday night to take on the Toronto Marlies, and on Sunday when they face Cole Caufield and the Laval Rocket.
The Comets are currently in first place in the AHL North Division with a 4-0-0 record. The perfect start has been built on strong goaltending and special teams play, especially on the penalty kill. Entering the game, Akira Schmid in second in the AHL in both GAA (0.97) and save percentage (.966). Daws isn’t too far behind with a 2.00 GAA, and a save percentage of .933. Helping the goaltending is the fact that the Utica penalty kill has been perfect so far, stopping all fifteen of their opponents power plays, while their own power play is converting at a rate 14.3%. The power play is not at the top of the league, but it is interesting to note that Utica has had the least amount of power play opportunities in the league with seven.
Offensively, it will be a “next man up” mentality for the Utica Comets. After Holtz, the leading goal scorers for Utica are Brian Flynn, Nikita Okhotiuk, Aarne Talvitie, and Nate Schnarr, with two each. Holtz was also tied for the overall points lead on the Comets with Chase DeLeo, each having five.
For Syracuse, center Jimmy Huntington has been driving the Crunch offense, leading the team with six goals and seven points. Defenseman Sean Day leads Syracuse in assists with five, and has also scored a shorthanded goal. The Crunch have the best power play in the North Division with a conversion rate of 20.7%, and their penalty kill has a 95.7% success rate. They have the second best penalty kill percentage in the AHL behind the Comets.
In goal, Hugo Alnefelt has started five of seven games for the Crunch this season. He has a record of 2-2-1, to go along with a GAA of 3.03 and a .883 save percentage. Backup Amir Miftakhov has won both games he has played in.
The Comets defeated the Crunch by a score of 2-1 in their only regular season meeting so far this season. Akira Schmid defeated Alnefelt in the game which was also played in Syracuse. After Fridays meeting, the teams will play each other again on Thursday November 11th at the Adirondack Bank Center in an afternoon matchup.