Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans 04-22-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets defeated the Rochester Americans by a score of 3-2 in overtime to clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Utica Comets appear to be coming out of the funk they have been in for the month of April. Going into their two-game set against the Cleveland Monsters that started on Tuesday night, the Comets had picked up only five points in their first seven games of the month. Then they took three of four available points against the Monsters to return home as the North Division regular-season champions. On Friday night they clinched the AHL Eastern Conference with a 3-2 overtime victory (along with losses by Providence and Springfield).

The Comets are still without Fabian Zetterlund and Nikita Okhotiuk, who are still with the New Jersey Devils, as well as Frederik Gauthier and Tyce Thompson, who are out with injuries. They would also be without Nolan Foote, who was recalled by New Jersey on Friday joining Zetterlund and Okhotiuk in the Garden State. Utica did get a huge boost in net, however, as Nico Daws was reassigned to the Comets on Wednesday (he did not make the trip to Cleveland). Daws and Akira Schmid formed the best goaltending tandem in the American Hockey League for the first half of the season before being split up due to injuries and recalls. The duo will look to recapture that magic for the playoffs.


Daws made the start in goal for the Comets on Friday night, and the crowd at the Adirondack Bank Center let him know how much they missed him with a loud roar when his name was announced as the starter. The Comets dominated play in the first period, outshooting the Americans 8-2 through the first twelve minutes, but it was Rochester who would get the first goal. Rookie sensation JJ Peterka took a saucer pass in the slot from fellow rookie sensation Jack Quinn and snapped a shot past Daws to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans Game Preview 04-22-2022

Although they gave up the only goal of the first period, the Comets continued their strong play in the second period. They were rewarded with a shorthanded goal when Tyler Irvine was stopped on a breakaway by Rochester goaltender Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen but Ryan Schmelzer was right there to put the rebound into the wide-open net to tie the game. They took the lead when while on the power-play, Reilly Walsh sent a pass to Alexander Holtz, who wired a laser of a shot past Lukkonen from the left circle to give the Comets a 2-1 lead after forty minutes of play. Holtz has now scored a goal in two consecutive games.

Alexander Holtz’s power-play goal gave the Comets a 2-1 lead.

The Rochester Americans need wins to stay in the playoff race in the North Division, as they entered the game hanging onto the fifth and final spot by a thread. That desperation showed in the third period as they took thirteen shots on Daws and were finally able to breakthrough with 1:07 remaining – when Sean Malone put a rebound off a Jack Quinn shot into the Utica net to tie the game at two. In true “cardiac Comets” fashion, the game headed to overtime.

Both the Rochester Americans and Utica Comets are in the top five in the league on offense, but in this overtime, it was the Comet’s offense that prevailed. Joe Gambardella sprung Reilly Walsh through the slot in the Rochester zone, and although Lukkonen made the initial save, Walsh was able to put his own rebound in to win the game for the Comets at the 1:11 mark of the overtime period. With the victory, Utica has won six of the eleven meetings between the two teams, with one more remaining in the regular season next Friday night in Rochester.

Without further adieu, here are the three observations from Friday night’s game.

Reilly Walsh is Heating Up.

It cannot be understated how important defenseman Reilly Walsh is to the Utica Comets offense. He is a huge part of the Comet’s ability to break out of their own zone, and is integral to the power-play as well – he leads the team in power-play assists with fifteen.

Walsh has collected two goals and two assists over the past five games. It just so happens that the Comets are coming out of their aforementioned funk by winning three of those past five games. When Walsh is on his game it gives the Comet’s chances of victory a major boost, and it looks like he is heating up at the right time.

The Kids Held Their Own.

Speaking of Utica Comets defensemen, their defense corps has been a bit shorthanded as of late. With Kevin Bahl and Nikita Okhotiuk with the Devils and Tyler Wotherspoon missing Friday night’s game after the birth of his child (congratulations to the Wotherspoon family!), the Comets turned to a pair of ECHL call ups to fill the void. Tim Theocharidis and Jarrod Gourley did not register a point on Friday night, but they also look comfortable at the AHL level. When the three regulars on the Comets defense return, the rookies will most likely become healthy scratches, but they have had a good showing in a short sample size.

Once Again, the Utica Comets Are the Number One Seed in the Eastern Conference for the Playoffs.

That just has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

This episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast features former Mohawk Valley resident and Washington Capitals super fan, Andrew Bray! Drew, as he is known, grew up in Mohawk and now lives in Maryland, was diagnosed with cancer but has since beat it – and got some major support from the Capitals organization in doing so! They hosted Drew and his family for a game and the story inspired an article on nhl.com (you can check it out here: https://www.nhl.com/capitals/news/a-c…). We chat about the game, the story, Ovechkin’s pursuit of Gretzky’s goal record, the upcoming NHL Playoffs, an outdoor hockey program that was run by the Gumper – who makes his return to the show, and much more!

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts! Cover photo credit: nhl.com.

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