The Utica Comets head to the state of Pennsylvania on Saturday to take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in an inter-division Eastern Conference battle.
The Utica Comets home rink at the Adirondack Bank Center is inundated with college hockey this weekend with Atlantic Hockey Association Championship taking place as well as the number two ranked Utica Pioneers Men’s Hockey Team hosting their NCAA Division III Tournament quarterfinals game against the Nor’easters of the University of New England. While the college teams rule the day in Utica on Saturday, the Comets will take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza with at least two busloads of fans joining them. The Comets won the only meeting so this season between the two teams by a score of 6-5 on January 7th in Utica.
Coming off of a 3-2 comeback overtime victory on Wednesday night in Belleville against the Senators, the Comets enter Saturday night’s game with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 35-12-6-0 with 76 points and a 0.717 points percentage. On the road, they are 16-6-3-0 with 35 points for a 0.700 points percentage. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is sixth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 25-24-4-4 for 58 points and a 0.509 points percentage. At home, they are 15-11-3-1 for 34 points and a 0.567 points percentage.
On offense, the Comets have scored the fourth-most goals in the American Hockey League with 189, while on the road they are fifth overall with 90 goals scored. The top five scorers on the team are:
- Fabian Zetterlund: 20 goals, 23 assists = 43 points
- Alexander Holtz: 21 goals, 21 assists = 42 points (leads the team in goals scored)
- Chase DeLeo: 12 goals, 29 assists = 41 points (leads the team in assists)
- AJ Greer: 17 goals, 22 assists = 39 points
- Reilly Walsh: 7 goals, 28 assists = 35 points
Fabian Zetterlund also leads the team in shots (141), game-winning goals (5), and overtime goals (2).
Among the AHL leaders on offense, here’s where the following Comets rank:
- Alexander Holtz is fourth in rookie scoring
- Alexander Holtz is second in rookie goals scored. he is two goals behind Jakob Pelletier even though he has played thirteen less games than Pelletier.
- Reilly Walsh is sixth among AHL defensemen in scoring.
- Chase DeLeo is seventeenth in the league in assists.
- Fabian Zetterlund is fifteenth in overtime goals, and fourteenth in game winning goals.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ranks twenty-fifth overall in the AHL in team offense with 153 goals scored. At home, they are twenty-sixth in team offense with 75 goals. Their top five scorers are:
- Valtteri Puustinen; 17 goals, 17 assists = 34 points
- Alexander Nylander: 18 goals, 13 assists = 31 points (leads the team in goals scored)
- Pierre-Oliver Joseph: 9 goals, 20 assists = 29 points
- Felix Robert: 13 goals, 14 assists = 27 points.
- Sam Poulin: 10 goals, 16 assists = 26 points
Defenseman Juuso Riikola leads the team in assists with twenty-one, while Puustiinen leads the club in shots with 142. The Penguins have no one among the leaders of the offensive categories in the AHL.
Like they are on offense, the Utica Comets are fourth overall in the American Hockey League on team defense, having allowed 144 total goals to be scored. Away from the Adirondack Bank Center, they have given up 74 goals, with is the fourth-best in the league as well. In goal, Akira Schmid continues to dominate the playing time, as he has appeared in ten straight games. His record is 18-4-3 with a 2.28 GAA and 0.922 save percentage to go with two shutouts. He is fifth in the AHL in GAA, sixth in save percentage, and seventh league-wide in wins. Mareks Mitens has returned from a brief stint with Adirondack of the ECHL to serve as Schmid’s backup. Mitens is 5-5-1 with a GAA of 3.66 and a save percentage of 0.874 for the Comets this season.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have a trio of goaltenders currently on their roster. Filip Lindberg has a record of 4-2-0 with a 2.76 GAA and a 0.915 save percentage. Tommy Nappier is 8-7-2 with a GAA of 3.05 and a save percentage of 0.891. The third goaltender is Louis Domingue who has a record of 5-5-2 to go with a GAA of 2.45 and 0.927 save percentage. The Penguins goaltenders do not have a shutout this season and none are on the AHL goaltending leader lists in any categories.
On the power play, the Comets are seventh overall in the AHL with a success rate of 20.8%, scoring 35 goals on 168 power-play opportunities. On the road, they are ninth in the league with a success rate of 21.1% – converting 16 of 76 chances on the power play. Leading the Comets in power-play goals are Fabian Zetterlund with seven and Alexander Holtz with five. Chase DeLeo and Reilly Walsh lead the team in power-play assists with eleven.
The Penguins rank twenty-eighth in the AHL on the power play scoring 33 goals in 224 chances with the man advantage for a success rate of 14.7%. At home they have a power-play success rate of 14.8%, scoring 16 goals on 108 chances, which ranks twenty-eighth in the league as well. Leading the Penguins in power-play goals is Alex Nylander with seven and Valtteri Puustinen with six, while Jusso Riikola leads the team in power-play assists with eleven.
The Comets rank fourteenth in the American Hockey League overall on the penalty kill, as they have allowed 32 goals in the 170 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 81.2%. On the road, they are ranked twenty-seventh in the league has given up 21 goals on the 83 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 74.7%. Utica has scored eight shorthanded goals this season, with three of them coming from AJ Greer.
With an 80.4% success rate (44 goals allowed in 225 times shorthanded), the Penguins are 18th in the AHL overall on the penalty kill. At home they are 26th, allowing 24 goals on 102 times shorthanded for a success rate of 76.5%. The Penguins have scored one shorthanded goal this season and that was by Anthony Angello.
Saturday night’s game between the Comets and Penguins is scheduled to begin at 6:05 pm EST. Radio coverage for begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 6:05 on AHLTV.