Utica Comets at Laval Rocket Game Preview 01-19-2022

The Utica Comets are in the Province of Quebec on Wednesday night to face the Laval Rocket for the third time this season.

The Utica Comets and Laval Rocket are separated by fourteen points in the AHL North Division standings, but looks can be deceiving as the Rocket has been a much-improved team as of late, posting a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games. Couple this with the 9-3-2-0 record Laval possesses at home makes tonight’s matchup much more precarious for the Comets than it might seem on paper.

For their part, the Comets have been playing with a “patchwork” lineup of sorts over the past few weeks as injuries, illnesses, and callups to the New Jersey Devils have forced Utica to play with multiple recalls from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. Even with the roster turmoil, the Comets have gone 4-3-3 in their last ten games and still have the best winning percentage in the American Hockey League at .788. The Devils are finally getting healthy again, which by extension will help the Comets going forward.

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The Comets and Rocket will meet a total of six times this season. They have already played twice with the Comets winning both games. They won the matchup on November 7th in Utica by a score of 4-2 and then six days they scored a 5-3 victory in Laval. Tonight’s game will take place at Place Bell, which is the home of the Laval Rocket.

The Utica Comets have the best winning percentage in the AHL by playing a well-rounded overall game. They are tied for seventh overall in the league in team goals scored with 104. They are hoping team-leading scorer Chase DeLeo returns to the lineup after missing Saturday night’s game against the Syracuse Crunch. DeLeo has six goals and twenty-one assists for twenty-seven assists in only nineteen games played – he is nineteenth overall in scoring in the American Hockey League. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in goals scored with eleven, followed closely by Nate Schnarr with ten.

The Utica Comets Lose to the Syracuse Crunch in Overtime

The Rocket, like the Comets and just about every team in the AHL, has struggled with roster turmoil and they have struggled overall on offense. They are nineteenth in the league in team offense with ninety-one goals scored. Team-leading scorer Laurent Dauphin is still with the Montreal Canadiens, so left-wing Kevin Roy currently leads the Rocket in points with fifteen (six goals and nine assists). In Dauphin’s absence, Jean-Sebastian Dea leads the team in goals scored with ten.

The Comets goaltending situation was turned upside down in early December when Nico Daws went down with a lower-body injury and Akira Schmid was recalled to the New Jersey Devils. Marek Mitens held down the fort in their absence, but on Saturday night Daws made his return to the lineup, and Schmid was reassigned back to the Comets. Daws started Saturday night’s game against the Syracuse Crunch and played admirably – making thirty-four saves in 4-3 overtime loss (Mitens served as the backup in that game). Mitens has not been reassigned to the Thunder yet, but as long as Daws and Schmid are on the Comets roster, they will get the vast majority of the team’s starts.

The Rocket has experienced the loss of their normal goaltending tandem as well as Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven are still assigned to the Montreal Canadiens. In their absence, Kevin Poulin was called up from Trois Rivieres of the ECHL. Poulin has a record of 2-2-0 with a 2.31 GAA and .927 save percentage. He has been backed up by Louis-Phillip Guindon, who was signed to a PTO by the Rocket and has not played a game for them.

On the powerplay, the Comets are ninth in the American Hockey League, converting 17 of 82 chances good for 20.7%. Utica is the only team in the league with less than one hundred powerplay chances. The offensive struggles of the Rocket mirror their powerplay, as their 16% success rate (16 of 100 opportunities) ranks twenty-seventh in the AHL.

Both the Rocket and the Comets have top ten penalty-killing units. The Rocket is sixth in the AHL, allowing 18 goals on 105 times shorthanded. The Comets are close behind, ranked eighth in the league with an 82.8% success rate. They have allowed 17 goals on 99 times shorthanded.

Wednesday night’s game starts at 7:30 pm EST. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast will be on AHLTV.

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