Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans preview

The Utica Comets visit the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY on Wednesday night with a chance to tie an AHL record.

The Utica Comets continue their march towards history on Wednesday night when they hit the ice to face the Rochester Americans. This time they have a chance tie the AHL record for most consecutive wins to start a season. That record, ironically, is held by the 1984-85 Rochester Americans.

The road to a 10-0-0-0 record to start the season has not been without bumps in the road for the Comets. At one point or another, be it to injury or recall to the New Jersey Devils, Utica has lost Alexander Holtz, Tyce Thompson, Jesper Boqvist, Brian Flynn, and Chase DeLeo. Even with these subtractions from the roster, the Comets have just kept rolling through the competition. Outstanding goaltending, great special teams play (especially on the penalty kill), and having the ability to roll four lines while not being dependent on any one particular line has coach Kevin Dineen’s team firing on all cylinders.

The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans have met once in the regular season already, with the Comets scoring a 6-2 victory over the Americans on opening day at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica. For all the talk about the Comets start, the Americans have been playing very well themselves. Since the loss to the Comets, the Americans (or Amerks, as they are sometimes known as) have won seven games to go with only three losses. Their overall record of 7-4-0-0 has them tied for second place with the Toronto Marlies for second place in the AHL North Division behind the undefeated Comets.

Brian Flynn of the Utica Comets breaks in for a shot on Rochester Americans goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen during the Comets/Americans game on October 17th. Photo credit: Kristy Kinville.

On offense, Rochester has Michael Mersch, JJ Peterka, Peyton Krebs, and Jack Quinn who are averaging over one point per game. Quinn is tied for the AHL lead in goals scored with nine, and is third in points with sixteen. The Americans also added more firepower to their offensive arsenal in the form of forward Peyton Krebs. The highly regarded twenty-year-old was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres in the Jack Eichel trade, and has seven points (all assists) in six games played between the Henderson Silver Knights and the Americans.

In goal, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has made the majority of the starts for the Rochester Americans. He currently has a record of 4-4-0, with a GAA of 3.37, and a .891save percentage. Despite what looks like very pedestrian numbers, Luukkonen has been on a hot streak as of late. He was just named the AHL Player of the Week for the period ending on November 14th after posting a 2-1 record while making 112 saves in that span. According to https://theahl.com, Luukkonen has a 1.77 GAA and a .949 save percentage. Aaron Dell handles the backup goaltending duties in Rochester and has a record of 3-0 with a 3.01 GAA and a .905 save percentage.

The Utica Comets are hoping to have leading scorer Chase DeLeo back for the Rochester game. DeLeo has one goal and eleven assists in seven games played, but has missed the last three games while being in the Covid protocol. In DeLeo’s absence, AJ Greer, Marian Studenic have stepped up to fill the offensive void. Greer has recorded three goals and one assist, while newcomer Studenic has notched one goal and three assists. Joe Gambardella continues to lead the team in goals scored overall with six.

The Comets break out of their zone in the season opening game against the Rochester Americans. Photo credit: Kristy Kinville.

It cannot be overstated just how important goaltending has been to the Utica Comets undefeated start. Nico Daws and Akira Schmid have been rock solid in net and continue to impress in their first professional seasons in North America. With the Comets at 10-0-0-0, both are of course undefeated. Daws has made six starts, and has a GAA of 2.17 to go with a save percentage of .936 – which ranks fifth in the AHL. In the four games he has started this season, Schmid has been lights out. His GAA of 1.23 and .957 save percentage are both ranked number one in the American Hockey League.

Wednesday night’s game in Rochester starts at 7:05pm. Radio coverage will be on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL) and will start thirty minutes prior to puck drop with the pregame show. The television broadcast will be carried on AHLTV.

Notes: Wednesday night will be the first of three meetings in one week’s time between the Comets and the Americans….Schmid started the Comets last game on Sunday afternoon….The Comets are sixteenth in the AHL on the power play at 19.2%, and are third in the league on the penalty kill at 87.5%. The Americans are ranked eighteenth on the power play at 18.9%, and are eighteenth on the penalty kill at 80%….The Comets have had both the least amount of power play opportunities, and have been shorthanded the least in the AHL so far this season….The Comets have outscored their opponents this season 42-18, while the Americans have outscored their opponents 44-39.

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