Utica Comets Down Rochester, Cleveland Monsters Game Preview

Photo credit: AHLTV

The Utica Comets get back in the win column by defeating the Rochester Americans 4-2. They then complete a three games in three nights stretch on Sunday in Cleveland.

The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans are natural rivals due to their geographic locations. The fact that the Comets are in first place in the North Division and the Americans are in second in the same division, makes the rivalry extra intense this season. Saturday night’s game between the two clubs continued that intense rivalry.

The Comets entered the game in the middle of a “three in three” – which is three games in three straight nights. Coming off a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss at home the night before against the Charlotte Checkers. The Americans on the other hand were coming in on a high – having defeated the Syracuse Crunch 2-1 on Friday night.

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Rochester carried the momentum from their victory the night before into their contest against the Comets as they would get on the scoreboard first. At just over six and a half minutes into the opening frame, the American’s Brandon Biro cut to the slot and lifted a beauty of a backhand shot past Comets goaltender Nico Daws. Daws was making his second consecutive start, having started the previous night against Charlotte. With two minutes and twenty-two seconds left in the period, Utica tied it up when while on the powerplay, team-leading goal scorer Fabian Zetterlund blasted a one-timer from the left side off a pass from Robbie Russo past Rochester goalie Mat Robson. A mere seven seconds later the Comets took the lead when Aarne Talvitie took advantage of Robson misplaying the puck behind the net and put it into the undefended Rochester goal to give Utica a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.

Rochester’s leading goal scorer, Michael Mersch, opened the scoring in the second period when he pounced a loose puck at the Utica blue line, skated in, and snapped a shot past Daws from the slot to tie the game at two. The Americans outshot the Comets twelve to five in the second period, but it was Utica that got the only other goal of the frame. Fabian Zetterlund and Robbie Russo connected again on the powerplay when for the second time in the game Russo fed Zetterlund for a one-timer from the left side that beat Robson again to give the Comets a 3-2 lead they would maintain going into the second intermission.

Utica Comets Fall to Charlotte in Overtime and Rochester Game Preview

A back and forth third period produced no goals until with thirty-eight seconds left, Fabian Zetterlund deposited the puck into an empty Rochester net to complete the hat trick and give the Comets a 4-2 victory against their North Division rivals. The Comets now lead the season series against the Americans four games to three.

Notes: Rochester outshot Utica 30-27…Utica was 2 for 6 on the powerplay, Rochester was 0 for 1…Fabian Zetterlund led Utica scorers with three points (three goals), Robbie Russo, AJ Greer, and Kevin Bahl each had two assists…Ethan Prow led Rochester scorers with two assists…Aarne Talvitie now has goals in two consecutive games…Alexander Holtz (eight games) and Chase DeLeo (three games) had their point streaks snapped…Comets fourth-leading scorer Nate Schnarr missed his third consecutive game… Rochester plays again on Wednesday night at home against Charlotte, Utica plays on Sunday (January 30th) at Cleveland.

Comets at Monsters Game Preview 01-30-2022

The Utica Comets roll into the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Sunday to complete their three games in three nights stretch to take on the Cleveland Monsters – who are also playing their third game in three nights. This game is rescheduled from a contest that was supposed to take place on December 16th but was postponed due to Covid protocols. This is the third time these teams have met this season, with the Comets winning the previous two games.

The Comets enter the game with the best winning percentage in the AHL at .779 on the strength of a 25-5-5-0 record, which of course puts them in first place in the North Division. The Monsters have not been so fortunate, as they are in last place in the North Division with a 13-16-4-3 record.

As a team, the Comets have scored 128 goals this season which is fourth-best in the American Hockey League. Individually, they are led by Chase DeLeo’s thirty-five points – which puts him at eleventh in the AHL scoring race. On the strength of his hat trick on Saturday night against the Rochester Americans, Fabian Zetterlund extended his team lead in goals scored to sixteen – which also ties him for the eighth-most in the league.

The man Zetterlund is tied with is former Comet and current Cleveland Monster Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce leads the team in goals scored (sixteen) and points with twenty-seven. Defenseman Jake Christiansen has the second-best point total for Cleveland with twenty-one.

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The defense has not been a problem for the Comets this season as they have surrendered only 87 goals – which is second-best in the AHL. In goal Nico Daws has had a stellar season, posting an 11-2-2 record with a 2.42 GAA and .919 save percentage. He is ranked eleventh in the league in wins, seventh in GAA, and eighth in save percentage. His backup, Mareks Mitens, has played eight games and has a 4-3-1 record to go with a 3.84 GAA and .867 save percentage. With Daws having started the past two games, it’s possible Mitens gets the call for the Cleveland game.

With regular goaltenders Daniil Tarasov and JF Berube out of the lineup, the Cleveland Monsters’ goaltending situation has been in flux. Their current tandem is Jet Greaves and Cam Johnson. Greaves has a 3-5-0 record with a GAA of 3.39 and a .893 save percentage. Johnson has posted a record of 1-1-1 to go with a 2.50 GAA and .905 save percentage.

With two powerplay goals on Saturday night, the Comets improved their success rate to 23.8% – good for third-best in the AHL. Conversely, the Monsters have struggled with the man advantage. Their success rate is 15.9%, which ranks twenty-seventh in the league.

Both the Comets and Monsters are in the bottom half of the AHL when it comes to the penalty kill. Utica ranks eighteenth having given up 21 goals on 111 times shorthanded for an 81.1% success rate. Cleveland is twenty-sixth with a 77.3% success rate. They have given up 34 powerplay goals and have been shorthanded 150 times.

The Utica Comets versus Cleveland Monsters game starts at 5:00 pm EST. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), while the television broadcast begins at 5:00 on AHLTV.

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