The Utica Comets visit the Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto on Wednesday night to take on the Marlies in a game that will be broadcast on the NHL Network.
It’ll be a battle between the top teams in the North Division when the Utica Comets and Toronto Marlies collide for the third time this season, with the teams splitting the previous two games. The first place Comets enter the game with the best record in the AHL at 28-8-5-0 and sixty-one points for a points percentage of .744 but have stumbled a bit as of late – losing two of their last three games. The second-place Marlies are 21-12-2-1 with forty-five points for a points percentage of .625, and they are red hot – having won four straight games but they haven’t played in eleven days.
Despite missing Chase DeLeo (thirty-five points in twenty-eight games) for the past five games due to a lower-body injury, the Comets still have the third-best offense in the American Hockey League with 151 goals scored. With DeLeo out of the lineup, Fabian Zetterlund has taken over the team lead in scoring with thirty-six points (he already leads in goals scored with seventeen). His buddy Alexander Holtz has been an on absolute tear, registering at least one point in seven straight games to bring his totals to sixteen goals and sixteen assists in just twenty-seven games played. Defenseman Reilly Walsh also has thirty-two points and has now taken over the team lead in assists with twenty-six, and he is also the only player on the roster to have played in all forty-one games the Comets have played this season.
The Marlies are a “middle of the road” team on offense, ranking seventeenth in the league with 120 goals scored. They led in points by Brett Seney with thirty-one points (thirteen goals and eighteen assists) in thirty-one games. Leading the Marlies in goals scored is right-winger Joey Anderson, who has lit the lamp fourteen times this season. Defenseman Joseph Duszak has the most assists for Toronto so far on the season, pacing the team with twenty-five.
Both the Comets and Marlies have top ten defenses, with only the Stockton Heat have given up less than the 106 goals the Comets have allowed. It’s been a combination of strong team defense (four Comets are in the top twenty in the league in +/-) and solid goaltending that has propelled Utica to having the second-best defense in the AHL. Akira Schmid has taken over as the Comets starter in goal after he was reassigned to Utica earlier in the month when Nico Daws was recalled to the New Jersey Devils. Schmid has been outstanding in his time with the Comets this season, posting a record of 12-1-2-0 with a 1.88 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Both his GAA and save percentage are the best in the league.
Schmid’s backup, Mareks Mitens, was in goal for Utica’s last game against the Cleveland Monsters, and despite taking the loss, he played a great game. His stat line this season includes a record of 5-4-1 with a GAA of 3.49 and a .890 save percentage.
The Marlies rank tenth in the league in goals allowed, having surrendered 119 on the season. The Toronto goaltending tandem consists of Erik Kallgren and Michael Hutchinson. Kallgren is the usual starter for the Marlies and has a record of 12-6-0 with a 2.82 GAA and .912 save percentage. His save percentage ranks as fourteenth best in the entire league. Hutchinson has played in nine games for Toronto and has posted a record of 3-3-3 to go with a 3.52 GAA and .895 save percentage.
The Comets and Marlies powerplay rankings are an almost exact reflection of their overall offensive rankings. Utica has the third-best powerplay in the American Hockey League, scoring 30 powerplay goals on 127 opportunities for a conversion rate of 23.6%. The Marlies are ranked eighteenth in the league on the powerplay, scoring 25 goals on 134 chances for an 18.7% conversion rate. Both the Comets and the Marlies are the bottom two teams in the AHL in the number of powerplay opportunities received.
Utica and Toronto are both middle-of-the-pack teams when it comes to penalty-killing success. Toronto is fourteenth in the league, allowing 25 goals on 136 times shorthanded for a success rate of 81.6%. Utica is nineteenth in the league on the penalty kill, as they have allowed 26 goals in the 135 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 80.7%. The Comets have given up the second-fewest powerplay opportunities in the AHL, while the Marlies have given up the fourth-fewest.
Wednesday night’s game begins 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 the NHL Network and AHLTV.