The Utica Comets play their third consecutive road game on Wednesday night in Rochester looking to pick up their fourth straight victory.
The Utica Comets (38-14-6-1, 83 points, 0.703 points percentage) have solidified their spot on top of the Eastern Conference on the strength of their current three-game winning streak. On Wednesday night, they face a Rochester Americans (30-24-5-3, 68 points, 0.548 points percentage) team that is currently in sixth place in the North Division and fighting to get into the fifth and final playoff spot held by the Belleville Senators. Over the past ten games, the Comets are 5-3-1-1 while the Americans are 3-4-2-1. This will be the tenth of twelve meetings between the two games this season, with the Comets winning five of them thus far.
Utica did not make any moves at this season’s AHL Trade Deadline, which was on Monday, March 28th, but the New Jersey Devils did make a college free agent signing that will impact the team. Forward Brian Halonen was signed to a two-year ELC by the Devils and has subsequently signed an ATO by the Comets (this is standard practice when it comes to college free agent signings). Halonen just completed his senior season at Michigan Tech, wherein thirty-seven games played this season he had twenty-one goals and twenty-three assists to go with forty-nine PIM. He stands at six feet tall and weighs 207 pounds, he will bring some size, grit, and scoring to the Comets roster.
The Americans did make a trade on Monday, sending center Mason Jobst to San Jose for defenseman Mark Alt. In Alt, they got a veteran defenseman who brings size and leadership to their blue line, who has also played twenty games in the NHL. He and AJ Greer were teammates on the Colorado Eagles for two seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20).
Both the Comets and Americans boast impressive offenses. Utica is second in the AHL with 208 overall goals scored. On the road, they scored 104 goals, which puts them fourth in the league. A key part of the Comet’s offense, rookie sensation Alexander Holtz, did not play in the team’s last game against the Hartford Wolfpack due to an undisclosed injury, and his status for Wednesday night’s game as of this writing is unknown. Holtz’s injury status notwithstanding, the top five scorers for the Comets are:
- Fabian Zetterlund: 24 goals and 26 assists = 50 points. (20th in the AHL in scoring)
- Chase DeLeo: 14 goals and 31 assists = 45 points. (18th in the AHL in scoring)
- AJ Greer: 19 goals and 25 assists = 44 points.
- Alexander Holtz: 22 goals and 21 assists = 43 points.
- Reilly Walsh = 7 goals and 29 assists = 36 points.
If Holtz is unable to play, Frederik Gauthier would slot into number five on that list with seven goals and twenty-three assists for thirty points. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in shots with 167 and game-winning goals with seven.
Rochester is right behind Utica in overall goals scored with 207 – which ranks third in the league. At home they are fourth overall, having scored 108 goals. The top five scorers for the Rochester Americans are as follows:
- JJ Peterka: 17 goals and 35 assists = 52 points. (18th in the AHL in scoring, 9th in the AHL in assists)
- Jack Quinn: 22 goals and 23 assists = 45 points.
- Michael Mersch: 21 goals and 23 assists = 44 points.
- Arttu Ruotsalainen: 16 goals and 26 assists = 42 points.
- Ethan Prow: 9 goals and 30 assists = 39 points.
Peterka leads the team in shots with 174, while Jack Quinn has the most game-winning goals on the Americans with four.
The Comets have allowed 159 goals overall which rank fourth in the league. Away from the Adirondack Bank Center, they have yielded 81 goals, ranking them third in the AHL in goals allowed on the road. The Comets goaltending tandem is made up of Akira Schmid and Mareks Mitens. Schmid is 2-2 against Rochester this season and has an overall record of 19-6-3 with a GAA of 2.40 and a 0.918 save percentage, as well as two shutouts. He is eighth in the AHL in wins, ninth in GAA, and tenth in save percentage. Mitens has seen more playing time as of late, starting three of the Comet’s last five games. He has a record of 7-5-2 with a GAA of 3.15 to go with a save percentage of 0.896. He lost the only game he started against Rochester this season.
Rochester has struggled on defense this season, as the 230 overall goals, they have allowed ranks thirtieth in the American Hockey League. At home, they have yielded 111 goals which are also thirtieth in the league. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Aaron Dell comprise the Americans goaltending tandem. Luukkonen is 1-3 against Utica this season and is 10-11-4 overall with a 3.46 GAA to go with a 0.895 save percentage and one shutout. Dell has a record of 10-5-1 along with a GAA of 3.01 and a 0.906 save percentage and won his only start against Utica this season. According to the Rochester Americans Twitter account, Luukkonen is starting in goal tonight.
Both the Comets and Americans have been dangerous on the power play this season. Utica is fifth overall in the AHL, scoring 41 power-play goals on 187 opportunities for a success rate of 21.9%. On the road, they have 22 goals in 87 power-play opportunities for a success rate of 24.7%, which is the sixth-best in the league. Fabian Zetterlund leads the Comets with eight power-play goals followed by Holtz with six. Chase DeLeo leads the team in power-play assists with thirteen, followed closely by Reilly Walsh and Robbie Russo with twelve each.
The Americans have been a powerhouse on the power play, ranking fourth overall in the AHL scoring 52 goals on 222 opportunities for a success rate of 23.4%. At home, they have scored 25 power-play goals in 111 opportunities, which ranks sixth in the league. Jack Quinn leads the team in power-play goals with seven, followed by Michael Mersch, Sean Malone, and Brett Murray who have six each. Oskari Laaksonen leads the Americans by a large margin in power-play assists with twenty, which is also the eighth-most in the AHL.
The Comets rank ninth overall on the penalty kill, allowing 33 goals in the 185 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 82.2%. On the road, they have yielded 21 goals in 92 times shorthanded for a success rate of 77.2% which ranks twenty-fifth in the league. Utica has been spectacular on the penalty kill in the month of March, allowing only two power-play goals overall. They have scored nine shorthanded goals this season, led by three from AJ Greer.
The Americans are twelfth overall in the league, allowing 40 goals in the 218 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 81.7%. At home, they are eleventh, where they have yielded 20 goals in 114 times shorthanded for a success rate of 82.5%. Rochester has scored four shorthanded goals this season scored by four separate players.
Wednesday night’s Utica Comets at Rochester Americans game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 pm EDT at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), and the television broadcast begins at 7:05 on AHLTV.