Utica Comets at Syracuse Crunch Weekend Series Preview

The Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch will play each other three times in six nights. Here’s a preview of their games this Friday and Saturday night in Syracuse.

The Empire Recycling Galaxy Cup series between the Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch rolls on this weekend as the teams will meet on Friday and Saturday nights with both games taking place at the Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. The Comets enter this weekend leading the Eastern Conference with a record of 31-11-5-0 for 67 points and a points percentage of .713. Syracuse is currently in sixth place in the North Division with a mark of 22-19-6-1 for 51 points and a points percentage of .531. The teams play each other a total of fourteen times, and with eight of those games already in the books, Utica leads the series at this point by winning six of those matchups.

The Comet’s offense ranks fourth overall in the American Hockey League with 166 goals scored. Individually, Utica has five players with more than thirty points each and is led by Fabian Zetterlund (thirty-eight points in forty-three games played) and Chase DeLeo (thirty-eight points in thirty-four games played). Rounding out the “thirty point club” is Alexander Holtz (thirty-four points in thirty-one games), Reilly Walsh (thirty-four points in forty-six games), and AJ Greer with thirty-three points in thirty-eight games. Zetterlund and Holtz lead the team in goals scored with eighteen each while DeLeo and Walsh lead the way in assists with twenty-eight. Zetterlund also leads the team in power-play goals with six and shots with 121.

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Syracuse has scored 142 goals this season which puts their offense at eighteenth in the AHL. On an individual basis, their offense runs through center Gabriel Dumont. He is ninth on the AHL points list with forty-six (in forty-eight games played), which of course leads the Crunch as well. Dumont also leads Syracuse in goals scored (twenty-five), is tied for second in assists with Sean Day with twenty-one, and is also second on the team in shots (120) behind Cole Koepke’s 126. Alex Barre-Boulet leads Syracuse in assists with twenty-four.

The Comets have allowed the fourth least amount of goals in the league, surrendering only 127. Utica has three players in the top twenty of the American Hockey League in +/- Tyler Wotherspoon (+20), Kevin Bahl (+16), Nolan Foote (+16). With Nico Daws in New Jersey, Akira Schmid is the main man in the Comets crease. He has a record of 14-3-2 with a GAA of 2.11 and save percentage of .929 – both are best in the AHL. He is backed up by Mareks Mitens, who enters the weekend with a mark of 5-5-1 with a 3.66 GAA and .874 save percentage.

The Unsung Heroes For the Utica Comets

Syracuse ranks twenty-first in the league having allowed 152 goals so far this season. In net, the Crunch have been using a triumvirate of goaltenders. Max Legace, who has played in the NHL over parts of the past four seasons, has a 6-6-0 record for the Crunch with a 3.30 GAA and .870 save percentage. Hugo Alnefelt carries a 9-4-4 mark to go with a GAA of 2.87 and .889 save percentage and also has the distinction of having spent time this season in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning and in the ECHL as well with the Orlando Solar Bears. Amir Miftakov, who hasn’t dressed for the past five Syracuse games, has a record 6-8-3 with a 2.92 GAA and a save percentage of .895.

On the power play, the Utica Comets are sixth overall in the league – scoring 32 goals with the man advantage on 147 opportunities for an efficiency rate of 21.8%. Utica’s 147 power-play opportunities are the fewest in the AHL so far this season. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in power-play goals with six followed by Alexander Holtz who has four.

The Crunch power-play units are operating at a 20.1% efficiency rate, scoring 33 goals on 164 chances placing them thirteenth in the league. Charles Hudon leads the team in power-play goals with nine, followed by Dumont with seven.

Both the Comets and Crunch are in the bottom half of the league on the penalty kill. The Comets are nineteenth overall in the AHL at 80.1%, allowing 31 goals on 156 times shorthanded – which is the least amount of times any team has been shorthanded this season. AJ Greer leads the Comets in shorthanded goals scored with three.

The Crunch ranked 29th in the league on the penalty kill, as they have allowed 39 goals in the 159 times they have been shorthanded. Syracuse has a success rate on the penalty kill of 75.5%. Four Crunch players have one shorthanded goal each.

Friday and Saturday nights games are scheduled to start at 7:00 pm EST. Radio coverage for both games begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast on both nights begins at 7:00 on AHLTV.

Here’s the interview with Comets reporter for the Rome Daily Sentinel Ben Birnell from Episode #66 of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast. You can find the entire episode on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify under Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast.

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