Utica Comets vs Charlotte Checkers series preview

The Utica Comets take a trip down south to play the Checkers in Charlotte for a two game series.

With Thanksgiving and their AHL record-setting season-opening win streak over, the Utica Comets have taken a 753 mile trip south for their geographically longest road trip of the season. Awaiting them in the Queen City of Charlotte, North Carolina is the Checkers – who are the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers. The Comets defeated the Checkers by a score of 4-1 in their only meeting so far this season on November 19th at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, NY.

The two-game series in Charlotte will be played on Saturday, November 27th, and Sunday, November 28th at the Bojangles Coliseum. The Comets enter the series in first place in the North Division with a 13-1-0-0 record while Charlotte is fifth in the Atlantic Division with an 8-7-2-0 mark.

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Through the first part of the season, both the Comets and the Checkers are in the top ten in the American Hockey League in offense. Utica is fifth with fifty-six goals scored in fourteen games. Charlotte is right behind in sixth place with a total of fifty-four goals scored in seventeen games. Despite both teams being in the top ten in team scoring, neither team has an individual scorer in the top twenty of the AHL scoring race.

The Utica Comets had a roster change recently when their leading scorer, Chase DeLeo, was recalled to the New Jersey Devils. In his place, 2020 first-round draft pick Alexander Holtz was reassigned to Utica. Holtz started the season in Utica scoring five goals in four games before being recalled to the Devils. In his first game back with the Comets on Wednesday night, he picked right up where he left off by scoring his sixth goal overall with the team. His six goals are tied for the team lead with Joe Gambardella. With DeLeo in New Jersey, Nate Schnarr is now the Comets leading scorer with eleven points (four goals and seven assists).

The Comets will also get another key part of their team back as New Jersey announced on Saturday morning they reassigned forward Fabian Zetterlund to Utica. In the ten games he played for the Comets this season, Zetterlund had three goals and six assists.

The Charlotte offense runs through center Alexander True. In seventeen games played, he has six goals and eight assists for fourteen points. After True, Aleksi Heponiemi and Logan Hutsko are tied for second on the team with eleven points.

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A major strength of this season’s Utica Comets team has been its goaltending. Akira Schmid is 6-0 and leads the AHL in GAA and save percentage with 1.65 and .944 respectively. Despite taking his first loss of the season on Wednesday night, Nico Daws is still tied for second in the league with seven wins. His 2.13 GAA and .931 save percentage both rank fourth in the American Hockey League.

The Charlotte goaltending tandem consists of Christopher Gibson and Joey Daccord. Gibson has a record of 4-4-0 with a GAA of 3.29 and a save percentage of .896. Daccord’s record stands at 3-3-1 with a GAA of 2.54 and a .913 save percentage. His GAA ranks fourteenth in the AHL and his save percentage is tied for fifteenth best overall.

With the series being played in back-to-back games, expect to see all four goaltenders in action this weekend.

On special teams, Utica is ranked tenth in the AHL on the power play at 21.1% and Charlotte is tied for fifth at 22.4%. On the penalty kill, Utica is ranked eighth in the league at 85.1% and Charlotte is fifteenth at 82.4%.

Saturday night’s game starts at 6:00 pm and Sunday’s game at 3:00 pm. Radio coverage begins a half-hour prior to the start time with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast will be on AHLTV.

Notes: Utica has outscored its opponents by a margin of 56-28 for the season, Charlotte has outscored its opponents 54-51…Comets defenseman Robbie Russo has his five-game point streak snapped on Wednesday night, but teammate Reilly Walsh is currently riding a five-game point streak of his own…After this series, these teams will meet one more time in the regular season on January 28th at the Adirondack Bank Center.

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