Utica Comets at Lehigh Valley Phantoms Game Preview 04-02-2022

The Utica Comets wrap up a five games in seven nights stretch with a trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The Utica Comets (39-15-6-1, 85 points, 0.697 points percentage) have played a lot of hockey lately, but it does not appear to bother them. They stared down a brutal five games in the seven nights section of the schedule but won three of four of those games thus far with one more game to go. That game is tonight at the PPL Center, the home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (23-27-7-4, 57 points, 0.467 points percentage). Utica has the best record in the Eastern Conference, while Lehigh Valley is mired in last place in the Atlantic Division. The teams have played each other three times so far this season, with the Comets winning two of those games.

The Comets continue to soar on offense, as they are number two in the AHL in overall goals scored with 216. On the road, they rank fourth in the league with 106 goals scored. They welcomed Alexander Holtz back to the lineup on Friday night after he missed two games due to injury as well as Tyce Thompson, who hadn’t played for the team since November (for more on Friday night’s game, please click here: Utica Comets vs Syracuse Crunch 04-01-2022 Three Observations). The leading scorers for Utica are as follows:

  • Fabian Zetterlund: 24 goals and 28 assists = 52 points. (17th in the AHL in points, 12th in goals)
  • AJ Greer: 22 goals and 28 assists = 50 points.
  • Chase DeLeo: 15 goals and 32 assists = 47 points. (15th in the AHL in assists)
  • Alexander Holtz: 22 goals and 21 assists = 43 points. (Ranks among AHL rookies: 3rd in goals, 18th in assists, 8th in points, 11th in shots)
  • Reilly Walsh: 7 goals and 29 assists = 36 points. (9th among AHL defensemen in both points and assists)

Zetterlund leads the team in shots with 171 and game-winning goals with seven – which ranks tenth and fourth in the league in those categories. Frederik Gauthier has a five-game points streak going, and AJ Greer has scored multiple points in each of his three games played since returning from the New Jersey Devils. Although he is not among the top five scorers on the Comets, Robbie Russo is thirteenth among AHL defensemen in assists.

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The Phantoms are twenty-ninth in the AHL in total goals scored with 162. At home, they have scored 79 goals, which is ranks thirtieth in the league. Lehigh Valley is led by a pair of former Comets in scoring, and with Hayden Hodgson and Morgan Frost now playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, the top five scorers for the Phantoms are as follows:

  • Cal O’Reilly: 18 goals and 24 assists = 42 points.
  • Adam Clendening: 5 goals and 27 assists = 32 points. (Ranks among AHL defensemen: 13th in points, 12th in assists)
  • Garrett Wilson: 13 goals and 16 assists = 29 points.
  • Egor Zamula: 4 goals and 22 assists = 26 points.
  • Issac Ratcliffe: 6 goals and 12 assists = 18 points.

Clendening leads the team in shots with 124 and is tied with O’Reilly for the club lead in game-winning goals with three. Clendening is sixth among AHL defensemen in shots and eighth in game-winning goals.

The Utica Comets are the fourth-best in the AHL in overall goals allowed with 166. On the road, they have yielded 85 goals, which is the fifth-best in the league. The Utica goaltending tandem consists of Akira Schmid and Mareks Mitens. Schmid has a record of 20-7-3, to go with a GAA of 2.48, 0.915 save percentage, and two shutouts. He ranks seventh in the AHL in wins, eleventh in GAA, and twelfth in save percentage. Mitens carries a record of 7-5-2 with a 3.15 GAA and 0.896 save percentage. Schmid started Friday night against Syracuse, so there is a strong possibility that Mitens gets the start against Lehigh Valley.

The Phantoms have allowed 198 overall goals, which ranks twenty-sixth in the American Hockey League. They are better defensively at home, yielding ninety goals that rank seventeenth in the league. According to the AHL media kit for this game, Lehigh Valley has five goaltenders on their roster. Those goaltenders are:

  • Samuel Ersson: Has a record of 0-3-1, 2.96 GAA, 0.893 save percentage.
  • Felix Sandstrom: Has a record of 13-16-3, 3.07 GAA, 0.897 save percentage.
  • Pat Nagle: Has a record of 7-3-4, 2.60 GAA, 0.904 save percentage, 1 shutout.
  • Kirill Ustimenko: Has a record of 1-3-2, 2.91 GAA, 0.900 save percentage.
  • Darion Hanson: Has no record.

None of the Lehigh Valley goaltenders rank in the top twenty of any category in the league.

Ryan Schmelzer of the Utica Comets scored against the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night at the Adirondack Bank Center. Video credit: Scott Kinville.

The Comets have the fifth-best overall power play in the AHL, scoring 44 times on 192 opportunities for a success rate of 22.9%. On the road, they scored 23 power-play goals in 92 chances for a success rate of 25.0% – ranking sixth in the league. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in power-play goals with eight, followed by Alexander Holtz with six and AJ Greer with five. Chase DeLeo leads the club in power-play assists with thirteen, with Reilly Walsh and Robbie Russo hot on his trail with twelve each. Zetterlund and DeLeo have the most power-play points on the team with seventeen each.

The Phantoms have struggled on the power play this season, as they are dead last in the league with a 13.7% success rate (28 goals on 204 opportunities). At home, they have scored 12 power-play goals in 83 opportunities for a success rate of 14.5%, which ranks twenty-ninth in the league. Cal O’Reilly leads the Phantoms in power-play goals with five, while Adam Clendening leads in power-play assists and power-play points with thirteen.

The Comets had a great month of March on the penalty kill, allowing only three power-play goals all month. Overall, they are twelfth in the AHL on the penalty kill, yielding 35 goals in the 195 times they have been shorthanded. On the road, they have struggled killing penalties this season. They have allowed 23 goals in the 95 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 75.8% which ranks twenty-seventh in the AHL. They have scored eleven shorthanded goals this season, which is the third-most in the league. AJ Greer leads the team in shorthanded goals scored with four, which is also tied for third-most in the league.

The Phantoms have been effective on the penalty kill this season as they have yielded only 35 power-play goals in the 212 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 83.5% – which ranks sixth in the AHL. At home they have allowed 17 goals in the 97 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 82.5%, which is the eleventh best in the league. Lehigh Valley has scored seven shorthanded goals this season which ranks nineteenth in the American Hockey League. Cal O’Reilly leads the team with three shorthanded goals with Max Willman and Jackson Cates scoring two each.

Saturday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:05 pm on AHLTV.

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