A reeling Utica Comets team take on their arch rival the Syracuse Crunch in a home and home series on Friday and Saturday night.
Help is on the way for the Utica Comets.
After a wild game in Rochester that they narrowly lost on Wednesday night even though they played with only sixteen skaters, the Comets will welcome the return of Nolan Foote, as he has been reassigned to Utica by the New Jersey Devils. On Friday morning, the Comets also announced they had signed goaltender Brandon Kasel of the Adirondack Thunder to a PTO and released David Tomeo.
The Comets return home to the Adirondack Bank Center on Friday night to face a team they are very familiar with – the Syracuse Crunch. On Saturday night they will continue the rivalry when they move 54.5 miles west on I-90 to play once again, this time in the home rink of the Crunch the Upstate Medical University Arena.
The Comets and the Crunch will play each other a whopping fourteen times this season, and with only three games having been played so far this season, these two teams will be seeing quite a bit of each other over the next three and a half months. The last time they met was on Veterans Day (November 11th) in Utica with the Comets winning by a score of 3-1 (they were in the midst of their AHL record-setting undefeated start to a season).
Despite losing four of their last five games, the Utica Comets are in first place in the North Division with a 19-4-3-0 record good for forty-one points and a .788 win percentage (they no longer have the best record in the American Hockey League, that honor now belongs to the Chicago Wolves). The Crunch, by comparison, has struggled so far this season posting an 11-11-2-1 record which gives them twenty-five points and a .500 win percentage. Although they are currently in sixth place in the North Division, Syracuse has won six of their last ten games.
Entering the weekend series against the Crunch, the Comets are seventh in the American Hockey League in overall offense with ninety-seven goals scored. They now have someone in the top twenty among AHL scorers, as Chase DeLeo is at number seventeen with six goals and twenty assists for twenty-six points. DeLeo is on an absolute tear as of late, registering at least one point in five straight games. The eighteen games he has played in this season are the least amount of games among any member of that top twenty list. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in goals scored with nine.
Syracuse has struggled to score goals this season, as they rank twenty-fourth in the league with seventy-three tallies. Gabriel Dumont paces the Crunch on offense with eleven goals and nine assists for twenty points. Defenseman Sean Day leads the team in assists with twelve.
With the uncertainty of when Nico Daws or Akira Schmid will return, the Comets needed to bring in a backup with professional experience for Mareks Mitens. Mitens has started seven straight games for Utica posting a 3-3-1-0 record with a 3.96 GAA and .859 save percentage. With back-to-back games this weekend and next weekend with a Wednesday night against the Laval Rocket sandwiched in between, Mitens is going to need a break.
Enter Kasel. The twenty-five-year-old is certainly familiar with the area, as the native of Ithaca, NY is a former member of the Syracuse Stars. In five games played for the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL this season, Kasel has posted a record of 2-2-1-0 to go with a GAA of 2.42 and a save percentage of .921.
The Syracuse Crunch goaltending tandem is made up of Max Lagace and Hugo Alnefelt. Lagace, who has NHL experience, has a 5-4-0 record for Syracuse this season with a 3.35 GAA and .872 save percentage. In seven games for the Crunch, Alnefelt has a record of 3-3-1 with a 3.17 GAA and a .882 save percentage.
The Comets have converted seventeen of seventy-eight powerplay opportunities for a 21.8% success rate – which is sixth-best in the AHL. The Crunch is fifth-best in the league with a 21.9% conversion rate, capitalizing on twenty-one of ninety-six powerplay chances. At 83.3%, the Comets are ranked ninth in the American Hockey League on the penalty kill – allowing only fifteen goals on ninety of their opponents’ ninety powerplay chances. Syracuse is twenty-sixth in the league, allowing twenty goals on ninety-one of their opponents’ powerplays – good for a 78% success rate.
Both games start at 7:00 pm EST. On Friday night the radio broadcast begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL) and the television broadcast begins at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV. On Saturday night, the radio coverage will be the same, but the television broadcast will be on AHLTV only.