The last time Charlotte played at the Adirondack Bank Center, the Utica Comets set the AHL record for most consecutive wins to start a season.
The Utica Comets continue a busy stretch in the schedule when the Charlotte Checkers come to town on Friday night. The Comets enter the game with the best winning percentage in the American Hockey League at .781 but will have a couple of lineup adjustments heading into not only this weekend games but for at least a few more weeks as well.
Stalwart Utica defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon, who has the second-best +/- in the AHL at +21, has been named to the Canadian Olympic Team and will be gone for two to three weeks while the Olympic games take place (congratulations Tyler!). In his roster spot, Utica has recalled defenseman Joe Masonius has been recalled from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL.
Speaking of recalls from Adirondack, the Comets have brought goaltender Mareks Mitens back as well, sending Brandon Kasel back to the Thunder. Mitens has already played eight games for the Comets this season, posting a 4-3-1 record with a 3.84 GAA and a .867 save percentage. Kasel’s and then subsequently Mitens recall was made necessary by Akira Schmid being recalled back to the New Jersey Devils in the wake of Mackenzie Blackwood being placed on injured reserve.
The Comets and Checkers have met three times this season. Aside from the historic win in Utica on November 19th, the two teams met in Charlotte on November 27th and 28th – with the Comets winning both of those games as well. Having the best winning winning percentage in the American Hockey League, the Comets are also leading the North Division as well. The Checkers enter the game in fifth place in the Atlantic Division with a 19-15-2-0 record and a .556 winning percentage.
Both the Comets and the Checkers have top-five overall offenses in the AHL. The Comets are fourth overall in the league with 121 goals scored. Chase DeLeo is now thirteenth in the American Hockey League with thirty-three points (eight goals and twenty-five assists), and a three-game point streak going in which he has six points. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in goals scored with thirteen and has a four-game point-scoring streak himself. Nipping at Zetterlund’s heels for the team goal-scoring lead in Alexander Holtz, who has eleven but has been on an absolute tear as of late. He has a six-game point-scoring streak and goals in three of his last four games. Sandwiched in between Zetterlund and Holtz in the team goal-scoring race is Nate Schnarr, who has twelve.
The Checkers are certainly no slouches on offense themselves, as they are third in the AHL in goals scored with 122. They are led in points by Logan Hutsko with twenty-three (seven goals and sixteen assists). Former Utica Comet Zac Dalpe leads the Checkers in goals scored with thirteen (Dalpe played in six games for the Comets in 2013-14). He is closely trailed by another former Utica Comet, Kole Lind, as well as Scott Wilson – who has 193 games of NHL experience). Lind and Wilson have eleven goals each.
Team defense is not a problem for the Comets, as the eighty-one goals they have allowed is the best in the AHL – due in large part to the team’s strong goaltending. Since returning from injury two weeks ago, the Utica Comets net has belonged to Nico Daws. For the season, Daws has compiled a record of 10-2-1 with a GAA of 2.32 and a save percentage of .922 – including the first professional shutout of his career in North America on Tuesday night against the Providence Bruins. Daws ranks eleventh in the AHL in wins, sixth in GAA, and sixth in save percentage.
With a back-to-back slate of games this weekend against Charlotte and the Rochester Americans, it is likely both Daws and Mitens will get playing time.
With regular goaltender Joey Daccord still with the Seattle Kraken Taxi Squad, the Checkers goaltending duties have been handled by Billy Christopoulos. In three games for Charlotte, he has a record of 2-1 with a 2.36 GAA and .922 save percentage. Antoine Bibeau was reassigned to the team by Seattle four days ago to complete the goaltending tandem. Overall, Charlotte is twenty-first in the American Hockey league in team defense, allowing 108 goals.
With their strong offensive capabilities, the Comets and Checkers also have strong powerplays. Utica is third in the American Hockey League converting 23 of 96 chances for a 24% success rate – although they have had the least amount of powerplay opportunities in the league. Charlotte has scored on 26 of 128 powerplay chances making their success rate 20.3% – good for ninth in the AHL.
The Checkers and Comets have nearly identical success percentages on the penalty kill. Charlotte is twelfth in the AHL, allowing 22 goals on 121 times shorthanded for an 81.8% success rate. Utica has allowed 20 goals on 108 times shorthanded for an 81.5% success rate – good for sixteenth in the league.
Friday night’s game starts at 7:00 pm EST. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV.