Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators preview

The Utica Comets put their perfect record on the line Sunday afternoon, when they travel to Belleville to take on the Senators.

Former NFL team owner Al Davis once said “just win baby”, and that is exactly what the Utica Comets are doing.

The Comets had to battle win on Saturday afternoon in Laval against the Rocket, but they found a way to emerge victorious. With the victory, Utica has started this season with nine consecutive wins and in the process set the team record for most victories to start a season. The game against Laval was the first of three games on the road for the Comets, which is also their first multi-game road trip of the season.

Next up is a Sunday afternoon meeting at the CAA Arena in Belleville with the Senators. The Senators are currently last in the AHL North Division 5-7-0-0 record. The Comets are in first place in the same division on the strength of their 9-0-0-0 record.

Utica Comets defeat Laval Rocket for ninth straight win

The Belleville Senators offense goes through left wing Jake Lucchini. In twelve games played, Lucchini has six goals and five assists for eleven points. He leads the team in goals scored, and is tied for second in assists behind Pontus Aberg. Lucchini’s twenty-nine shots on goal also rank second on the Senators behind forward Kole Sherwood’s thirty-two.

Goaltending duties for Belleville have been split evenly down the middle between Kevin Mandolese and Mads Sogaard this season. Mandolese has a record of two wins and three losses, to go with a GAA of 3.32 and .892 save percentage. Sogaard has won three games, lost three, and has posted a 3.08 GAA and .889 save percentage. Sogaard has started the last two games for the Senators, including last night night against the Bridgeport Islanders.

The power play is in the bottom half of the American Hockey League so far this season for Belleville with a 16.7% conversion rate. The penalty kill has been better than the power play, where they are tied for ninth best in the AHL at 84.6%. In all fairness to Head Coach Troy Mann’s team, the Senators have recently been going through tremendous roster upheaval as of late, as Ottawa has been depleted by Covid absences forcing several call ups from Belleville. Belleville has also recently lost defenseman Erik Brannstrom for several weeks due to a broken hand.

The Utica Comets have adopted a “next man up” approach to their offense, with Tyce Thompson and Jesper Boqvist having been recalled to New Jersey, and leading scorer Chase DeLeo in the Covid protocol. Leading the current active roster in scoring in Fabian Zetterlund, with two goals and six assists for eight points. In DeLeo’s absence, Zetterlund’s six assists also lead the current active roster in that category. With his goal on Saturday against Laval, Joe Gambardella now leads the team in goals scored with six.

The goaltending for the Utica Comets has been, simply stated, outstanding so far this season. In his six games played, Nico Daws has allowed only thirteen goals, giving him a GAA of 2.17 and a save percentage of .936. Daws is tenth in the AHL in GAA and fifth in save percentage. Backup Akira Schmid has posted even better numbers. In his three games played this season, he has a sparkling 1.31 GAA and .952 save percentage. Granted, he has only played in three games so far this season, but Schmid currently leads the American Hockey League in both GAA and save percentage.

Special teams play has also been at or near the top of the league for Utica all season long. The Comets power play has slightly fallen off as of late, but still ranks eleventh in the AHL. The Comets are an especially tough team to score against on the power play, as their penalty killing unit is operating at an 87.1% efficiency rate – good for fourth best in the league.

Notes: Both the Comets and Senators are playing the second game of a back to back….Daws started in goal for the Comets yesterday, expect Schmid to get the start today….Today’s Comets vs Senators game starts at 3:00pm, radio coverage begins at 2:30 with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), the television broadcast will be on AHLTV.

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