The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans will both be playing their third game in four nights when they meet on Saturday night at the Adirondack Bank Center.
The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans will meet for the ninth time this season on Saturday night, in a battle between two of the three New York State-based teams in the American Hockey League. The Comets have won five of the games so far between the two teams.
The Comets enter Saturday night’s contest with a record of 34-11-6-0 for 74 points and a 0.725 points percentage, which is not only the best record in the North Division but in the entire Eastern Conference as well. The Americans 27-23-3-2 for 59 points and a points percentage of 0.536, which puts them in fifth place in the North Division. Points percentage is very important in the AHL this season, as that is what will determine playoff qualification and seeding. For more details, click on this link: https://theahl.com/format-2022-calder-cup-playoffs#.YizBCUPhl-0.link
Overall, the Comets have had no problem scoring goals this season, as they are third in the AHL with 184 goals scored with 97 of them coming at home. Chase DeLeo (twelve goals and twenty-nine assists) and Fabian Zetterlund (twenty goals and twenty-one assists) are tied for the team lead in points with forty-one. Closely following them are Alexander Holtz (forty points), AJ Greer (thirty-eight points), and Reilly Walsh (thirty-four points). Holtz leads the team in goals scored with twenty-one, with Zetterlund (twenty goals), and Greer (seventeen goals) right behind him. DeLeo (twenty-nine) and Walsh (twenty-eight) are neck and neck for the team lead in assists, and Zetterlund leads the club in shots with 133.
Closely trailing the Comets in total goals scored are the Americans who are fourth in the league with 182 (92 of them have been scored on the road which is also fourth-best in the AHL). JJ Peterka leads the Americans in points and assists, and also ranks eighteenth in the American Hockey League in points with forty-six (thirteen goals and thirty-three assists). Captain Michael Mersch is second on the team in points with thirty-nine and leads the team in goals with nineteen. With Jack Quinn and Brandon Biro out of the lineup due to injuries, Ethan Prow (thirty-five), and Arttu Ruotsalainen (thirty-two) round out Rochester’s top points leaders. Peterka also leads the team in shots with 153.
It should be noted as well that rookie sensation Peyton Krebs is still with the Americans NHL parent club the Buffalo Sabres, but they have welcomed Sean Malone back to the lineup after he missed several months of action this season. Malone has ten goals and thirteen assists for twenty-three points in twenty-four games played this season, but more important to Comets fans, he has three goals and five assists in five games played against Utica this season.
Akira Schmid has started the last five games in goal for the Comets and enters Saturday night’s game with a record of 17-3-3 to go with a 2.26 GAA, a save percentage of .924 and two shutouts. He ranks fifth overall in the AHL in GAA and has the second-best save percentage in the league. With regular backup Mareks Mitens being reassigned to the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL to presumably get some work in, the Comets have signed Brandon Kasel to a PTO to back Schmid up. The Ithaca, NY native has no AHL record this season but was 6-11-1 with a 3.59 GAA and .895 save percentage in nineteen games played with the Thunder this season.
The Americans goaltending tandem consists of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Aaron Dell. Luukkonen has an AHL record of 9-11-1 this season with a 3.35 GAA, .896 save percentage, and one shutout. Dell is 8-4-1 with the Americans and has a GAA of 2.93 to go with a save percentage of .906. Both goaltenders have spent time with the Sabres this season.
Reflecting their prolific overall offenses, the Comets and Americans are also dangerous on the power play. Utica ranks sixth in the league scoring 32 goals on 165 power-play opportunities for a 21.7% success rate. Broken down even further, they are 21.59% at home – scoring 19 goals in 88 opportunities. Chase DeLeo leads the team in power-play points with fourteen and is tied for the team in power-play assists with Reilly Walsh with eleven (Robbie Russo is close behind with ten). Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in power-play goals with seven, while Alexander Holtz has the second most with five.
Rochester has the fourth-best power play in the AHL as they have scored 37 goals on 197 opportunities for a success rate of 22.9%. The Americans have a 25% power-play success rate on the road this season, scoring 26 goals in 104 opportunities. Defenseman Oskari Laaksonen leads the team in power-play points and assists with twenty-one and eighteen respectively. Of the players on their current roster, Brett Murray leads the team in power-play goals with six followed closely by Malone who has five.
The Comets have an 80.6% success rate on the penalty kill this season, allowing 32 goals in 165 times shorthanded, which ranks seventeenth in the AHL. At home Utica has been much more efficient, allowing only 11 goals in 85 times shorthanded for an 87.06% success rate. The Comets have eight shorthanded goals this season, led by three of them from AJ Greer.
The Americans are ranked thirteenth on the penalty kill this season, allowing 37 goals in 197 times shorthanded for an overall success rate of 81.2%. On the road, Rochester has allowed 18 goals in 93 times shorthanded, which equals a success rate of 80.65%. The Americans have scored four shorthanded goals this season, with Ruotsalainen and former Comet Josh Teves on the current roster to light the lamp while being a man down.
Saturday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EST. Radio coverage for Saturday night’s game begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV.