The Utica Comets Bring Back Three Players

The Utica Comets announced they have re-signed captain Ryan Schmelzer, forward Samuel Laberge, and goaltender Mareks Mitens.

The Utica Comets are bringing three players back next season that were a part of last season’s Eastern Conference regular-season champion team, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The captain of last season’s Comets team, Ryan Schmelzer, received a two-year AHL contract extension per general manager Dan MacKinnon. Last season was Schmelzer’s fifth professional season having previously played for the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL and Binghamton Devils of the American Hockey League. He scored eighteen goals for the Comets in 2021-22.

Forward Samuel Laberge began his 2021-22 season with the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL and was brought up to the Comets during the season. His hard-nosed gritty play earned him a spot in Utica that he would keep for the rest of the season, playing fifty-three games for the team. Laberge has played for three ECHL teams and two AHL teams in his five-season professional career. The terms of his contract were not disclosed.

The Contract Statuses for the Utica Comets Heading Into 2022-23.

Like Laberge, goaltender Mareks Mitens started the 2021-22 season with the Adirondack Thunder and was recalled to the team due to injuries. Mitens arrived on the scene in December when the Comets lost goaltenders Nico Daws and Akira Schmid due to injury and recall to the New Jersey Devils. He “held down the fort” for approximately one month until Schmid was returned to Utica. The terms of Mitens contract were not disclosed.

Comets also announce the 2022-23 season-opening date.

The Utica Comets have also announced that Monday, October 17th, 2022 will be the date they open their 2022-23 season. Each AHL team will play seventy-two games in 2022-23, and standings will also be determined by points next season as opposed to points percentage. The full 2022-23 schedule will be released on a date to be determined.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast Scott, Drew, and Dave the Save make their picks for the Calder, Vezina, Norris, and Hart trophies, and discuss the Stanley Cup Final, recent coaching hires, and more!

The show was recorded three hours before the NHL Awards Show, which one of the panelists got the most picks right? Would the Rangers have made the playoffs made without Shesterkin’s fantastic season? Will the Tampa Bay Lightning come back and win the series against the Avs as they did against the Rangers? Which one of the recently hired head coaches will have the most impact on their team this coming season? All of these questions are answered and more!

The Contract Statuses for the Utica Comets Heading Into 2022-23.

The 2021-22 season is over for the Utica Comets, which players might not be back next season?

Roster changes are a part of life in the American Hockey League, and the Utica Comets are no exception. Callups to NHL clubs and injuries are the usual culprits when it comes to roster instability during the regular season, but what about when the season is over? The short answer is it is even more volatile than the regular season.

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Roster construction in the AHL can be a very tricky proposition. Since it is the top development league for the National Hockey League, AHL teams are comprised of a lot of their parent club’s prospects. Besides the prospects, teams also have veterans on “AHL only” contracts, and to further complicate things, there is a number of game restrictions on those players. Here is the exact rule courtesy of http://www.theahl.com.

“In the AHL, player development is a top priority. The American Hockey League and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association have the following development rule in place:

Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.

theahl.com

If you were wondering, here is what qualifies a player as a rookie in the American Hockey League.

To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in a total of twenty-five (25) or more AHL and/or NHL regular-season games in any preceding seasons, nor in six (6) or more AHL and/or NHL regular-season games in each of any two preceding seasons, nor in one hundred (100) regular-season games in any European Elite League. A player who has met these qualifications but did so while playing on an amateur try-out agreement or as a signed junior will not have those games count towards his rookie status. Any player at least twenty-six (26) years of age (by Sept. 15 of that season) is not considered a rookie.

theahl.com
Subscribe to Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast channel on YouTube for videos like this and every episode of the show!

Another thing to keep in mind is that a vast majority of AHL-only veteran contracts are for one year only. Now that the season is over in Utica, which Comets are under contract for next season, and who is not?

Note: http://www.capfriendly.com and http://www.puckpedia.com provide contract information.

Forwards

PlayerContract Status
Chase DeLeoUnrestricted Free Agent – Group 6
Alexander HoltzSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Brian Flynn Unrestricted Free Agent
Joe GambardellaSigned through 2022-23
Patrick McGrathUnrestricted Free Agent
AJ GreerUnrestricted Free Agent
Fabian ZetterlundRestricted Free Agent
Nolan FooteSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Ryan SchmelzerUnrestricted Free Agent
Frederik GauthierUnrestricted Free Agent
Samuel LabergeFree Agent
Aarne TalvitieSigned through 2022-23
Graeme ClarkeSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Tyce ThompsonRestricted Free Agent
Notes: A Group 6 Unrestricted Free Agent is the same as an Unrestricted Free Agent. ELC = Entry-Level Contract.

Defensemen

PlayerContract Status
Michael VukojevicSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Robbie RussoSigned through 2022-23
Reilly WalshSigned through 2022-23 (ELC)
Tyler WotherspoonUnrestricted Free Agent
Jeremy GroleauSigned through 2022-23 (ELC)
Nikita OkhotiukSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Kevin BahlSigned through 2022-23 (ELC)

Goaltenders

PlayerContract Status
Nico DawsSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Akira SchmidSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Mareks MitensFree Agent

The franchise(s) history of the Utica Comets

All the players listed above played at least half of the season with the Comets. Forwards Brian Halonen, Chase Stillman, and Garrett Van Wyhe along with defensemen Shakir Mukhamdullin and Topias Vilen are under contract for at least next season as well but did not meet the half season threshold. Any combination of those players should see time in Utica next season.

For these players to crack the lineup, roster spots will have to open up – and they will. Player movement happens before the start of every new season, whether in the form of trades, free agency, promotion to the NHL or releases. As much as the fans in Utica and the Mohawk Valley love this Comets team, some players won’t be back – that’s life in professional hockey. The question is, who exactly won’t be back. Time will tell.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, it’s our Utica Comets Awards Show! Who was the most improved? Who is the heart and soul player for the team? Tune in to find out who wins these and several other categories! Then Barry Shelley from the Rink of Dreams joins us to talk about his experience at the NY State Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony!

Utica Comets Season Ends in Heartbreaking Fashion

The Utica Comets lost the winner take all game five against the Rochester Americans. Here’s a game five recap and three observations from the game.

After posting the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference, the Utica Comets had huge expectations coming to this American Hockey League playoff season. On Thursday night, they were eliminated in stunning fashion by the Rochester Americans in the North Division semifinal at the Adirondack Bank Center by a score of 4-2.

The series was tightly contested and contentious. The Comets and Americans are bitter rivals to begin with, and facing each other in a playoff series amped up the animosity. With each team winning two games heading into game five and the teams’ fanbases debating who has the better local cuisine, the atmosphere was electric in Utica on Thursday night.

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The visitors opened the scoring at the 9:10 mark of the first period when defensemen Casey Fitzgerald’s wrist shot from the blue line made it through a screen and past Utica goaltender Nico Daws and into the net. Fitzgerald’s father, New Jersey Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald, was in attendance to see his son score against his team’s AHL affiliate.

Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Four Recap and Observations

The Comets answered back eighty-two seconds later when Fabian Zetterlund scooped up a loose puck at the top of the left circle in the Rochester and wired a shot past Americans goaltender Aaron Dell tying the game one and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Less than a minute after that, Alexander Holtz got his first goal of the playoffs when he took a Ryan Schmelzer pass, skated in, and snapped a laser of a shot over Dell’s blocker into the top corner of the Rochester net giving the Comets a 2-1 lead they would hold for the rest of the period.

A scoreless second period led to a tense third period with the Comets holding onto a one-goal lead to start. A little over three minutes after the period’s opening faceoff, that lead disappeared as Arttu Ruotsalainen redirected a slap pass from Fitzgerald past a surprised Daws to tie the game at two (the Amerks were on the power play at the time). Three minutes later Rochester took the lead when Sean Malone drove into the Comets zone and beat Daws with a wrist shot from the slot to make the score 3-2. There were just over thirteen minutes remaining at the time of Malone’s goal, but the Comets were unable to get the tying goal. The Americans sealed the game with one minute remaining when Mark Jankowski fired the puck all the way from his own end and into the open Comets net (coach Dineen had pulled Daws for an extra skater) to make the score 4-2 and send his team into the North Division final against the Laval Rocket.

For the last time this season, here are the three observations from the game.

Greer, Zetterlund, and Russo led the way on offense for the Comets.

AJ Greer put the Comets on his back, leading the way not only on the scoresheet but also from a physical standpoint. He was a constant thorn in the American’s side, led the Comets in goals with six, and tied for the team lead in points with eight. The player he was tied in points with was Fabian Zetterlund, who himself led the Comets in assists with six. Despite not playing game four due to a suspension, Robbie Russo led all Utica defensemen in scoring with two goals and two assists for four points.

The Comets really missed Reilly Walsh and Frederik Gauthier.

Defenseman Reilly Walsh was an offensive force to be reckoned with for the Comets all season and was the main cog in driving offense from the blue line. After posting two assists in Utica’s 6-3 game one win, Walsh missed the rest of the series with what was revealed to be an appendectomy. Without Walsh in the lineup the Comet’s ability to break out of their zone and transition to offense was seriously hindered, allowing the Rochester forecheck to be much more effective.

Frederik Gauthier had not played for the Comets since the beginning of April due to an injury. By the time of the Gauthier injury, Utica had its playoff spot assured, but it was in the playoffs where his presence was sorely missed. The hulking center was a main penalty killer and faceoff man for the team and without him, neither aspect of the game was as effective for Utica. Without Gauthier, the Comets penalty kill operated at a 58.3% success rate, which was made more difficult by the fact the Americans have had one of the top power-play units in the AHL all season long.

It was a great season anyway.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Utica Comets and their fans, but it was a fantastic season nonetheless. No one expected them to post a record of 43-20-8-1 for 95 points, all while setting an AHL record by winning their first thirteen games to start the season. The slogan for this season was “a new era has begun” and if this season is an indication, this era is going to be a very fun one for Utica hockey fans for some time to come.

The Utica Comets salute their fans after game five at the Adirondack Bank Center. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.
In this special edition of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Scott and Drew break down the second round of the NHL Playoffs! We didn’t have enough time on Tuesday to get everything in so we’ve got it all covered here! Who are we picking? How did Scott and Dave the Save’s first-round picks pan out? It’s all here and more! Can’t catch the show live? No problem! It will also be available afterward on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and martysillegalstick.com!

Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Four Recap and Observations

The Utica Comets put in a dominating performance in a game they had to win on Tuesday night in Rochester against the Americans.

It was do or die for the Utica Comets on Tuesday night as they were down two games to one in their best of five North Division semifinal playoff series against the Rochester Americans. After losing two consecutive overtime games by identical 4-3 scores, the Comets controlled most of game four and skated away with a 4-2 victory. The win sets up a winner-take-all-game five in Utica on Thursday night, with the winner advancing to play the Laval Rocket in the North Division final, which will also be a best of five series.

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Fresh off of their victory on Sunday, the Americans looked to carry that momentum through the first period of this game. Although they put the first four shots of the game in on Utica goaltender Nico Daws, it was the Comets who would score the first goal of the game. Tyce Thompson started the play by forcing a turnover in the Rochester zone, then Brian Flynn sent a cross-ice pass to Nolan Foote, who put the puck past American’s goaltender Aaron Dell from the right side of the crease. After the Foote goal, the Comets controlled play for the rest of the period – outshooting the home team by a margin of 13-6 and taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Three Observations

After a strong first period, the Utica Comets exploded for three goals in the second. The first one came at the 8:46 mark when Fabian Zetterlund sent a pass from the Comets zone to the Amerks blue line, where AJ Greer was waiting to take the puck in and beat Dell with a wrist shot from the slot. Greer struck again eight minutes later when he stuffed a rebound off of a Chase DeLeo shot from the right circle into the Rochester goal to extend the Utica lead to three. With one minute and thirty-eight seconds left in the period, DeLeo got a goal of his own when with the Comets on a five on three power play, Alexander Holtz faked a shot in the slot and slid the puck to DeLeo – who fired the puck past Dell and in to give Utica a 4-0 lead heading into the second intermission.

The third period started with some fireworks, as after several scrums throughout the game, Utica’s Nikita Okhotiuk and Rochester’s Casey Fitzgerald (who is the son of New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald) dropped the gloves. The Americans were desperate in the third, so much so that with 11:56 left in the game while playing at four on four, coach Seth Appert chose to pull goalie Michael Houser for an extra skater (Houser replaced Dell to start the third). The gambit proved fruitless as the Amerks (nor the Comets) did not score and Houser was back in his net a minute and a half later.

Rochester broke the Daws shutout with 4:13 left while on the power play, when Arttu Ruotsalainen hammered a one-timer from the left circle off of a Fitzgerald pass past the Utica goaltender. The Americans made things interesting when they got another power-play goal by Mark Jankowski with fifty seconds remaining but that would be all they would get, as the Comets closed the game out without giving up any more goals.

With the series tied at two games apiece, the winner takes all game five scheduled for Thursday night at 7:00 pm EDT at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica. Here are three observations from the Utica Comets game four victory.

No Russo, no Walsh, no problem.

The American Hockey League announced on Tuesday afternoon that Utica defenseman Robbie Russo was suspended for one game for an illegal check to the head of Rochester’s Michael Mersch in game three. The Comets would also be without defenseman Reilly Walsh who has been out since game two with an undisclosed injury. The two defensemen have provided a majority of the offense from the Comet’s defense corps this season.

Their absence did not hinder the Comets in game four, as the team’s big guns up front took care of the offense. AJ Greer continued his already strong play with two more goals bringing his total for the series to six. Chase DeLeo, who led the team in scoring during the regular season, scored his first points of this series – registering a goal and an assist. Fabian Zetterlund contributed three assists, bringing his point total for the series to seven. Russo will be back on Thursday night, while Walsh’s status for that game is still unknown.

Nico Daws had a very strong game.

Coach Kevin Dineen had a very difficult choice to make on Tuesday night between his two goaltenders. Should he go with Nico Daws, who won game one but looked a little shaky in the game two overtime loss (in all fairness, he made two huge stops with one minute left in regulation to get that game to overtime). Or should he go with Akira Schmid? Schmid was among the league leaders in AHL goaltending for most of the season and played admirably in the game three overtime loss.

He chose Daws, and it was the right choice. He stopped 30 of the 32 shots the Americans took on him and did not yield a goal until less than five minutes remaining in the game when the Comets were up by four goals. Daws was sharp and poised all night long, allowing his team to take chances on offense knowing their goaltender was on his “A” game.

Who will get the last laugh?

The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans split their regular-season series, with each team winning six games. Each team also won in the other one rink during this playoff series, so it’s only fitting it would go the five-game distance. Who gets the final win and last laugh between the Comets and Americans will be determined in front of what will surely be a rocking Adirondack Bank Center on Thursday night.

For the record, neither chicken riggies nor garbage plates “suck” – they’re both pretty darn good!

Episode #77 is our Utica Comets game 4 pregame primer! With their backs against the wall, the Comets MUST win and the guys from Bahl’s Army and Neil Villapiano of the Devils State of Mind Podcast join us to break it all down! How will the Comets adjust without Robbie Russo? Who will start in goal? Who will have a big game? We answer all of these questions and much, much more!

Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Three Observations

The Utica Comets lost their second straight game by a score of 4-3 in overtime in game three on Sunday, and are now on the brink of elimination.

After a season where seemingly everything has gone right, the Utica Comets now find themselves in serious dire straits. The best of five North Division semifinal series now stands at two games to one in Rochester’s advantage after they defeated the Eastern Conference regular-season champion Comets in front of over 10,000 people at the Blue Cross Arena. The Comets will need to win game four on Tuesday night at the same venue to avoid elimination from the Calder Cup Playoffs.

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The home team started out hot outshooting the visitors seven to one through the first six minutes. Despite the shot differential, it was the Comets who got on the board first when AJ Greer beat Rochester goaltender Aaron Dell with a backhand shot from the slot at the 7:34 mark. The Americans tied the game with 5:26 left when Sean Malone put a rebound off of a shot by Jimmy Schuldt past Comet’s goaltender Akira Schmid (who was making his first appearance of the series). A little over two minutes later, the Americans took the lead on a goal by Lukas Rousek and the first period ended with the home team leading by a score of 2-1.

Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans Playoff Preview and Prediction

The Comets tied the game at two in the second period when Fabian Zetterlund got his first goal of the playoffs when he rifled a one-timer from the left circle off a feed from Robbie Russo into the Amerks net on the power play. Utica continued to pepper Dell with shots after the Zetterlund goal, but the Americans took the lead once again with 4:38 remaining in the period when a JJ Peterka shot from the bottom of the right circle was redirected by Brandon Biro in the Utica crease.

Undeterred, the Comets continued to pressure the home team and it paid off as with two minutes left in the frame they tied the score at three with some help from the Amerks. Dell lost control of the puck after a pile-up at the right side of his crease and Jack Quinn accidentally kicked it into his own net, much to the dismay of the huge crowd assembled. The goal was credited to Graeme Clarke, who was playing in his first game of the series after missing the first two in Utica.

The home team controlled play in the third period, outshooting the Comets by a margin of 13-5, but neither team could light the lamp. With fourteen seconds left in regulation, Utica’s Robbie Russo took a checking to the head penalty to put the Americans on the power play to close out the period and start the overtime period with 1:46 of time with the man advantage. Akira Schmid made a sparkling save on a point-blank chance by JJ Peterka and looked like Utica might survive the American’s power play. Rochester, however, proved why they are one of the best teams in the AHL with the man advantage as with seconds remaining on the power play Peyton Krebs fed Arttu Ruotsalainen for a one-timer from the right circle past Schmid to win the game.

The Utica Comets now have their backs to the wall, as a loss on Tuesday night will end what has been a dream season up to this point. Here are the three observations from this game:

Akira Schmid deserved a better fate.

Akira Schmid had a fantastic first season in the American Hockey League, as he was among the league leaders in all the major goaltending categories for most of the season. When Nico Daws returned from the New Jersey Devils in mid-April, however, he was relegated to the backup role. Daws started both of the playoff games in Utica but with a back to back games, two and three it was Schmid’s turn in Rochester, and looked really good.

Schmid made thirty-five saves against the Americans on Sunday, and although he gave up four goals he didn’t have much of a chance to stop any of them. Coach Dineen will have a very tough choice to make as to who will be his starting goaltender on Tuesday night, but after Schmid’s performance on Sunday, it would not be surprising to see #93 manning the crease for the Comet’s biggest game of the season.

The Comets have to figure out how to stop JJ Peterka.

JJ Peterka of the Rochester Americans has had an outstanding rookie season, compiling twenty-eight goals and forty assists in seventy regular-season games. That stellar play has continued in the playoffs, as in five games played he has four goals and four assists. Against Utica, he has been particularly dangerous, with four goals and two assists. If the Comets are going to get this series back to Utica for game five, they will have to figure out how to contain Peterka.

Utica really misses Reilly Walsh and Frederik Gauthier.

Defenseman Reilly Walsh played in game one against Rochester and recorded two assists in the Comet’s 6-3 victory. He has since missed games two and three with an undisclosed injury and it is an obvious big loss for the team. Walsh is so important to the Comets in regards to breakouts and transitions out of their zone and is one of the main cogs in their offense. Without Walsh in the Utica lineup, Rochester has been able to put extra pressure on the Comet’s end without having to worry about him burning them on a breakout.

Center Frederik Gauthier has been out of the Utica lineup since the beginning of April, so the team has time to adjust to life without him. Even so, his faceoff prowess along with his defensive and penalty-killing abilities is sorely missed against a high-flying offensive team like the Americans. If the Comets can get one or both of them back for game four it would be a huge boost to their chances to tie the series and continue their season.

Episode #77 will be live at 6:00 pm EDT on Marty’s Illegal Stick YouTube channel and Facebook page with our Utica Comets game 4 pregame primer! With their backs against the wall, the Comets MUST win and the guys from Bahl’s Army and Neil Villapiano of the Devils State of Mind Podcast join us to break it all down! Get ready for the game by joining us live one hour before the puck drops!

Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans Game Two Three Observations

It was a rough night for the Utica Comets as they dropped game two of their best of five North Division semifinal series against the Rochester Americans by a score of 4-3 in overtime.

The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans have played each other very tightly all season, so why should their playoff series be any different? The teams played each other twelve times during the regular season, with each team claiming the victor’s laurels on six occasions. The Comets took game one with a 6-3 victory on Tuesday night, but the Americans returned the favor and knotted the series at one game apiece on Saturday night. The teams now leave the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica and head to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester for games three and four on Sunday and Tuesday.

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It was a festive mood in Utica on Saturday afternoon, as fan fest kicked off two and half hours prior to game time outside the Adirondack Bank Center and plenty of tailgating in the parking lots. The mood soured for Utica fans just twenty seconds after the opening faceoff, as Rochester’s Mark Jankowski scooped up a loose puck at the bottom of the right circle in the Comets zone and snapped a shot past Utica goaltender Nico Daws to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Ten minutes later, the American’s regular-season scoring leader JJ Peterka drove the net through the Comets zone and beat Daws on a shot that might have tipped off Comets defenseman Michael Vukojevic’s stick to give the Amerks a 2-0 advantage on the scoreboard.

Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans Playoff Preview and Prediction

The early Rochester goals quieted a rocking home crowd, but the Comets got right back in the game at the 15:25 mark of the period, taking advantage of a power-play opportunity thanks to a Brandon Davidson roughing penalty. Defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin, playing in his first AHL game, slid a pass from the point to the right circle where AJ Greer hammered a one-timer between Rochester Aaron Dell’s legs for his third goal of the series. With the crowd very much back in the game, the Americans took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

Brian Halonen carries the puck into the offensive zone for the Utica Comets on Saturday night against the Rochester Americans. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

As he did in game one, Robbie Russo tied the score in the score in the second period for the Comets with a goal – this time beating Dell with a wrist shot from the slot off a feed from Joe Gambardella. With the Comets and their fans envisioning another come from behind victory, the Americans regained the lead once again at the 12:12 mark of the second period. Peterka lit the lamp once again when he redirected a pass from Peyton Krebs in the slot to give his team a 3-2 lead they would hold for the rest of the period.

Robbie Russo of the Utica Comets ties the game at two against the Rochester Americans on Saturday night. Video credit: Scott Kinville.

The “never say die” Comets were true to form as they would tie the game just one minute and thirty-two seconds into the third period. Brian Flynn set up shop in front of the Amerks net and tipped a shot from the point by Russo past Dell and into the net to send the Adirondack Bank Center into a frenzy. The Americans thought they had taken the lead three and a half minutes later but the goal was waved off. The teams traded chances for the rest of the period with Daws making two big saves with one minute remaining to ensure the game went to overtime.

The Utica Comets Take Game One

It wasn’t meant to be for the home team on this night, as Peterka completed his hat trick at 1:29 into the overtime period. He beat Daws with a sharp angle shot from the left side to seal a 4-3 overtime win for his team and provide momentum going into Sunday’s game three. With that said, here are three observations from Saturday night’s game.

Early goals haunt the Utica Comets again.

In game one, the Rochester Americans had two goals on the scoreboard within six minutes of the start of the game. In game two, they had a pair of goals by halfway through the opening period. The Comets were able to overcome the early deficit in game one, but it proved to be a hill too high to climb in the second game. If they are to find success in Rochester, Utica cannot continue to give up early leads and expect to climb out of the hole – even as porous as the American’s defense was during the regular season. The Comets will most likely turn to Akira Schmid in goal for game three so it remains to be seen if a change in the crease will remedy what has been unusually pair of starts for coach Dineen’s team.

The Comets must keep Rochester’s top guns in check.

The Rochester Americans are known for their explosive offense and are led by JJ Peterka, Jack Quinn, Michael Mersch, Peyton Krebs, Michael Mersch, and Arttu Ruotsalainen. So far, Mersch has been held pointless, but the other five have played significant roles in this series. In game one it was Ruotsalainen and Prow picking up two points while in game two Peterka had a hat trick with Krebs collecting three assists while Quinn registered the primary assist on Peterka’s game-winning goal. To beat the Americans, these players must be held in check.

Shakir Mukhamadullin makes his AHL debut/Reilly Walsh status?

Defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin looked good on offense in his American Hockey League debut on Saturday night. He had the primary assist on AJ Greer’s power-play goal which it should be noted was the Comet’s first power play of the game and Dineen deployed him on the first unit. Unfortunately, he was also a -3 in the game, but I’m holding judgment on that considering it was his first professional game in North America – a playoff game no less.

Mukhamadullin was in because Reilly Walsh was out for the game. According to Jason Shaya and Ben Birnell, he has an injury and his status for the remainder of the series is unknown. If Walsh is to miss more time, it would be a big setback for the Comets, as he is so important to the breakout and transition game for the team. He finished the regular season with nine goals, thirty-four assists, and 112 shots in seventy games played and had two assists in Utica’s game one victory on Tuesday night.

Episode 76 features the return of Drew Bray to talk about the NHL Playoffs and Utica Comets! We break down each series and see just how Scott and Dave the Save’s playoff predictions are holding up! Then the trio breaks down the Utica Comets’ game one win against the Rochester Americans in their AHL North Division semifinal and what to expect for the rest of the series!

This episode is like hockey fans sitting around a bar talking about the sport we all love, check it out and subscribe on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts! Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast – By the Fans, For the Fans!

A Profile of NJ Devils Prospect Chase Stillman

NJ Devils prospect Chase Stillman. Photo credit gopetesgo.com.

The NJ Devils recently assigned Stillman to the Utica Comets.

The NJ Devils drafted forward Chase Stillman in the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at number twenty-nine overall. The nineteen-year-old was born in St. Louis, Missouri (his father played for the Blues) but grew up in Peterborough, Ontario. Like new teammates Tyce Thompson and Nolan Foote, Stillman has a brother playing in the National Hockey League, as his brother Reilly is a defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks.

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One month after being drafted by the Devils, Stillman signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team. He played one and a half seasons for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, Stillman finished his junior hockey career with his hometown Petes. Here’s what Elite Prospects had to say about the six feet, one inch, 183 pound Stillman:

Call it motor or energy or engagement or drive — Stillman has it. He is willing to go above and beyond, willing to play whatever role needed to the maximum of his ability to give his team the win. He knows when to go after to try and retrieve it, and will head to the best areas of the ice to get a scoring chance off.

Elite Prospects 2021 NHL Draft Guide

A Profile of NJ Devils Prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin

Here are Stillman’s junior hockey statistics:

Regular SeasonPlayoffs
SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIM+/-GPGAPtsPIM
2018-19Rayside-Balfour CanadiansNOJHL86280 51122
2019-20Sudbury WolvesOHL58132134630
2021-22Sudbury WolvesOHL249112027-14
2021-22Peterborough PetesOHL3510192937-4401110
Statistics courtesy of hockeydb.com.

Chase Stillman was assigned to the Utica Comets on May 1st and did not play in their game on Tuesday night (May 10th). According to Ben Birnell of the Daily Sentinel, Comets coach Kevin Dineen said Stillman has an injury and will not play in the team’s first playoff series. Should the Comets advance past Rochester, it remains to be seen if he will get playing time when he returns from injury. Otherwise, Stillman could very well begin his professional career in Utica next season.

Episode 76 features the return of Drew Bray to talk about the NHL Playoffs and Utica Comets! We break down each series and see just how Scott and Dave the Save’s playoff predictions are holding up! Then the trio breaks down the Utica Comets’ game one win against the Rochester Americans in their AHL North Division semifinal and what to expect for the rest of the series!

This episode is like hockey fans sitting around a bar talking about the sport we all love, check it out and subscribe on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts! Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast – By the Fans, For the Fans!

A Profile of NJ Devils Prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin

NJ Devils prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin. Photo credit: khl.ru.

The NJ Devils signed the young defenseman to a three-year entry-level contract in December and he has recently arrived in North America.

The NJ Devils season is over, but it has not stopped them from making moves. On May 1st, they assigned Chase Stillman, whom they drafted in the first round in 2021, to the Utica Comets after completing his Ontario Hockey League season with the Peterborough Petes. On May 9th, they assigned another first-round draft pick to Utica in defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin.

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The Devils drafted Mukhamadullin in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft at number twenty overall. He is twenty years old, stands six feet four inches tall, and weighs 194 pounds. He has played the last three seasons for Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League), his stat line is listed below:

Regular SeasonPlayoffs
SeasonTeamLgeGPGAPtsPIM+/-GPGAPtsPIM
2019-20Ufa Salavat YulayevKHL270110-120000
2020-21Ufa Salavat YulayevKHL39371010-2
2021-22Ufa Salavat YulayevKHL34347120110004
Statistics are courtesy of hockeydb.com.

The Utica Comets Take Game One

Elite Prospects had the following to say about Mukhamadullin in his draft year:

There will always be a market for 6-foot-4 defensemen who can skate well, and Mukhamadullin certainly qualifies. The pGPS (prospect Graduation Probabilities System) system that Jeremy Davis developed tags with an 84 percent chance of making the show; it’s the seventh-highest figure in this class. Mukhamadullin has a cannon for a one-timer, and he’s not shy about using it.

Elite Prospects 2020 NHL Draft Guide.
A Shakir Mukhamadullin highlight video from Wolf Hockey.

Mukhamadullin was on the ice for pregame warmups prior to the Comets playoff game against the Rochester Americans but did not play. It remains to be seen whether Utica coach Kevin Dineen inserts him in the lineup for any of the Comet’s playoff games for the rest of this season. He will most likely begin training camp next season with the New Jersey Devils, but Utica Comets should get familiar with him, as he will probably play his first professional season in North America in the American Hockey League.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Sean O’Brien from the Calder Farmstead, an AHL Podcast, joins us for our Utica Comets/North Division Playoff Preview! We’ll break down the Rochester vs Belleville and Syracuse vs Laval matchups as well as how each of them stacks up against the Comets! We’ll also take a look at the other divisions and predict who will be playing for the Calder Cup in June!

The Calder Farmstead an AHL Podcast is the source for coverage of the entire American Hockey League! Help both The Calder Farmstead and Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast grow by subscribing on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

The Utica Comets Take Game One

The Utica Comets opened their North Division semifinal playoff series against the Rochester Americans with a 6-3 victory on Tuesday night.

Going into their game against the Rochester Americans on Tuesday night, it had been ten days since the Utica Comets had played a game. It had also been over a month since they had the full lineup that carried them to a dominating regular season which resulted in earning the number one seed in the Eastern Conference leg of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Americans, on the other hand, came in fresh off of two game to none play-in round victory over the Belleville Senators.

With goaltenders Nico Daws and Aaron Dell leading their respective teams out to the ice, the Utica Comets and Rochester Americans started their best of five series to determine who would play either the Syracuse Crunch or Laval Rocket in the North Division playoff final. Although separated by eleven points in the standings, the teams split their twelve-game regular season – each winning six games.

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It looked at first as though the ten-day layoff was going to be a bad thing for the Comets, as the Americans took control of the game early while the home team appeared sluggish. At just two minutes and twenty-one seconds after the opening faceoff, Rochester got on the board when Arttu Ruotsalainen beat Daws with a wrist shot from the high slot off of a feed from Brett Murray. Almost four minutes later JJ Peterka scored a nearly identical goal from the same spot on the American’s third shot of the game to give them a 2-0 lead and in the process take a raucous crowd at the Adirondack Bank Center out of the game. Rochester limited the home team to just five shots in the first period and played about as good as a road playoff period as any team can expect to and took that 2-0 lead into the intermission.

Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans Playoff Preview and Prediction

Whatever Utica coach Kevin Dineen said to his team during the first intermission worked, as his Comets looked like a completely different team in the second period. They got much more traffic in front of Rochester goaltender Aaron Dell, and it paid off just four half minutes into the period when a scramble in front of the American’s net resulted in Tyce Thompson putting a loose puck past Dell to cut the visitor’s lead in half. Just one minute later, Nikita Okhotiuk sent a pass to Robbie Russo who blasted a one-timer past Dell, to tie the game and send the home crowd into a fever pitch.

Tyce Thompson scores the Utica Comets first goal of the game on Tuesday night. Video credit: Scott Kinville.

With all the momentum going Utica’s way, Rochester took the lead once again at the 11:37 mark when Ruotsalainen scored again, this time

on a shot from the right side that Daws would certainly like back. The Comets would tie it up on the power play with just over four minutes left in the middle frame when Ryan Schmelzer put a loose puck into the Amerks net to make the score 3-3. That score would hold through the end of the period.

The teams played rope a dope with each other through the first part of the third period until the 9:29 mark, when Dell stopped Fabian Zetterlund on a breakaway put Joe Gambardella put the rebound home to give the Comets their first lead of the night. With just under six minutes left, Utica added a fifth goal when Aarne Talvitie won a faceoff in the Rochester end right to AJ Greer, who rifled a shot into the top of the American’s net. Two and a half minutes later, Greer added his second goal of the night when he got in a breakaway and went forehand then backhand between Dell’s legs to make the score 6-3 and salt the game away for the home team.

The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans will meet for game two of this series on Saturday night at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Sean O’Brien from the Calder Farmstead, an AHL Podcast, joins us for our Utica Comets/North Division Playoff Preview! We’ll break down the Rochester vs Belleville and Syracuse vs Laval matchups as well as how each of them stacks up against the Comets! We’ll also take a look at the other divisions and predict who will be playing for the Calder Cup in June!

The Calder Farmstead an AHL Podcast is the source for coverage of the entire American Hockey League! Help both The Calder Farmstead and Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast grow by subscribing on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Utica Comets vs Rochester Americans Playoff Preview and Prediction

The Utica Comets will square off with a team they are very familiar with in the semi-finals of the North Division Calder Cup Playoffs.

The long wait is finally over for the Utica Comets.

By virtue of finishing in first place in the North Division (and first place in the Eastern Conference overall) with a record of 43-20-8-1, 95 points, 0.660 points percentage, the Comets earned a first-round bye. During the bye, the fourth-place Belleville Senators and fifth place Rochester Americans faced each other in a best of three play-in series for the right to face Utica. The Americans (37-29-7-3, 84 points, 0.553 points percentage) prevailed by winning two straight games in overtime, setting the stage for an all New York State series.

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The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans are certainly no strangers to each other. The teams have played each other twelve times, with each winning six games. One of the American’s wins came on November 24th, when they ended the Comets AHL record-setting undefeated streak to start a season at thirteen games. It was also against Rochester in a game on December 8th that goaltender Nico Daws was injured, setting the stage for Mareks Mitens to take over as the Comets starting goaltender for about one month. Mitens got the job when Akira Schmid was called up to the New Jersey Devils two days after the Daws injury.

Both the Comets and the Americans have greatly benefited from their respective NHL parent clubs not making the playoffs this season. Utica played without several of their regulars during the month of April, as they were getting their look in the National Hockey League. Now that the Devil’s season is over Fabian Zetterlund, Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, Nolan Foote, Reilly Walsh, and Alexander Holtz are all back in Utica for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Rochester has not received the number of players from their NHL parent club, the Buffalo Sabres, as the Comets got from theirs – but the quality is certainly there. Buffalo reassigned center Peyton Krebs and defenseman Casey Fitzgerald to the Americans for the remainder of their season. Krebs is a rookie sensation who adds to an already potent Rochester offense, while Fitzgerald adds a stabilizing presence to a blueline that has been susceptible to giving up goals all season long.

Early season action between the Utica Comets and Rochester Americans at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, NY. Photo credit: Madison Kinville.

The North Division semifinal matchup between the Utica Comets and Rochester Americans is a best of five games series. It will be a 2-2-1 format, with the first two games being played in Utica starting on Tuesday night May 10th. The winner of this series will play the winner of the other North Division semifinal which pits the Laval Rocket against the Syracuse Crunch. Here’s the ” tale of the tape” for the series between the Comets and the Americans. Note all totals and ranks are as of the end of the regular season.

Offense.

Utica

  • Goals For (overall): 246 (3.42 per game) – 4th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (home): 122 (3.39 per game) – 10th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (away): 124 (3.44 per game) – 4th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  1. Chase DeLeo: 21 goals and 35 assists = 56 points (1.02 points per game).
  2. Fabian Zetterlund: 24 goals and 28 assists = 52 points (0.90 points per game).
  3. AJ Greer: 22 goals and 30 assists = 52 points (0.98 points per game).
  4. Alexander Holtz: 26 goals and 25 assists = 51 points (0.98 points per game).
  5. Reilly Walsh: 9 goals and 34 assists = 43 points (0.61 points per game). Walsh is sixth among AHL defensemen in points and eighth in assists.

Chase DeLeo leads the Comets in shots with 180, while Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in game-winning goals with seven. Despite having scored the fourth-most goals scored overall in the American Hockey League, Utica does not have one player in the top twenty of any overall scoring category in the league.

Rochester

  • Goals For (overall): 254 (3.34 per game) – 3rd overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (home): 132 (3.47 per game) – 4th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (away): 122 (3.21 per game) – 6th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  1. JJ Peterka: 28 goals and 40 assists = 68 points (0.97 points per game). Peterka is tenth overall in the AHL in points, thirteenth in assists, fifteenth in goals, and fifth in shots.
  2. Jack Quinn: 26 goals and 35 assists = 61 points (1.36 points per game). Quinn is twentieth overall in the AHL in points and goals
  3. Michael Mersch: 26 goals and 28 assists = 54 points (0.83 points per game).
  4. Arttu Ruotsalainen: 18 goals and 33 assists = 51 points (0.89 points per game).
  5. Ethan Prow: 10 goals and 39 assists = 49 points (0.70 points per game). Prow is sixteenth overall in the AHL in assists, is third among AHL defensemen in points and assists, and is tenth in goals.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica

  • Goals Against (overall): 206 (2.86 per game) – 9th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (home): 92 (2.56 per game) – 4th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (away): 114 (3.17 per game) – 13th overall in the AHL.

Goaltenders:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 22-8-5 with a GAA of 2.60, a 0.911 save percentage, and two shutouts. He is eighth in the AHL in wins, fourteenth in GAA, seventeenth in save percentage, and fourteenth in shutouts.
  • Nico Daws has a record of 14-4-2 with a GAA of 2.54, a 0.916 save percentage, and one shutout. He has not played enough AHL games this season to qualify among the league leaders.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-8-2 with a GAA of 3.31 and a 0.888 save percentage.

Rochester

  • Goals Against (overall): 270 (3.55 per game) – 30th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (home): 127 (3.34 per game) – 28th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (away): 143 (3.76 per game) – 30th overall in the AHL.

Goaltenders:

  • Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has a record of 15-14-6 with a GAA of 3.28, a 0.900 save percentage, and one shutout.
  • Aaron Dell has a record of 12-7-1 with a GAA of 2.91 and a 0.909 save percentage.

Mohawk Valley Hockey Club Seeks Its Own Rink

Special Teams – Power Play.

Utica

  • Overall: 21.6% (50 goals in 231 opportunities) – 5th overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 19.5 % (23 goals in 118 opportunities) – 18th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 23.9% (27 goals in 113 opportunities) – 6th overall in the AHL.

Leaders:

  • Power play points: Chase DeLeo with eighteen.
  • Power play goals: Fabian Zetterlund with eight.
  • Power play assists: Reilly Walsh with fifteen.

The Comets have allowed five shorthanded goals this season, only the Ontario Reign have allowed fewer.

Rochester

  • Overall: 23.5% (65 goals in 277 opportunities) – 3rd overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 24.5% (34 goals in 139 opportunities) – 2nd overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 22.5% (31 goals in 138 opportunities) – 10th overall in the AHL.

Leaders:

  • Power play points: Oskari Laaksonen with twenty-seven.
  • Power play goals: Jack Quinn with ten.
  • Power play assists: Laaksonen with twenty-three.

Rochester has allowed fourteen shorthanded goals, which is the most in the American Hockey League.

Special Teams – Penalty Kill.

Utica

  • Overall: 81.9% (41 power-play goals allowed in 227 times shorthanded) – 9th overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 88.2% (13 power-play goals allowed in 110 times shorthanded) – 2nd overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 76.1% (28 power-play goals allowed in 117 times shorthanded) – 27th overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded goals scored: 13 – tied for 3rd overall in the AHL.

AJ Greer leads the Comets in shorthanded goals with four, which is also fourth overall in the league.

Rochester

  • Overall: 79.5% (54 power-play goals allowed in 264 times shorthanded) – 22nd overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 80.7% (26 power-play goals in 135 times shorthanded) – 12th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 78.3% (28 power-play goals allowed in 129 times shorthanded) – 23rd overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded goals scored: 5 – 27th overall in the AHL.

Five individual players have scored the team’s five shorthanded goals.

Prediction.

This should be a very fun series between two evenly matched teams. The Comets will be well-rested as they have not played a game since April 30th, but the Americans have momentum coming into this series as they are just coming off of a two-game play-in series over the Belleville Senators. Scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem for either team, but the Comets have the home-ice advantage and are the better defensive team thanks in part to their goaltending tandem of Akira Schmid and Nico Daws. This series will go all five games, but because of their defensive advantage, the Utica Comets will win it.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Sean O’Brien from the Calder Farmstead, an AHL Podcast, joins us for our Utica Comets/North Division Playoff Preview! We’ll break down the Rochester vs Belleville and Syracuse vs Laval matchups as well as how each of them stacks up against the Comets! We’ll also take a look at the other divisions and predict who will be playing for the Calder Cup in June! The Calder Farmstead an AHL Podcast is a prime source for coverage of the entire American Hockey League! Help both The Calder Farmstead and Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast grow by subscribing on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Utica Comets at Providence Bruins Game Preview 04-30-2022

The Utica Comets travel to the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI to face the Bruins in what will be both teams’ regular-season finales.

The Utica Comets (42-20-8-1, 93 points, 0.655 points percentage) and Providence Bruins (36-24-5-6, 83 points, 0.585 points percentage) are both assured their spots in the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Comets have clinched the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the winner of the North Division’s best three-play-in round between the fourth and fifth place teams in the division – those teams will be determined by the end of play on Saturday. The Bruins are locked into third place in the Atlantic Division and will play the sixth place Bridgeport Islanders in the first round.

Nevertheless, the two teams will meet on Saturday night in a game that was originally scheduled for December 5th. Both teams had top players returned to them from their NHL parent clubs in the past twenty-four hours, but it is unclear if any of them will play in this game. The Comets could also possibly see Tyce Thompson return to the lineup, and will also welcome recent New Jersey Devils signee Chase Stillman to the team as well. With that said, here is the tale of the tape for Saturday night’s Utica Comets vs Providence Bruins game. Note – team leaders will include players who returned to their respective clubs within the past twenty-four hours, regardless of whether they will play tonight or not.

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Offense.

Utica

  • Goals For (overall): 242 – 5th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (away): 120 – 6th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  • Chase DeLeo: 19 goals and 35 assists = 54 points.
  • Fabian Zetterlund: 24 goals and 25 assists = 52 points.
  • AJ Greer: 22 goals and 30 assists = 52 points.
  • Alexander Holtz: 26 goals and 25 assists = 51 points.
  • Reilly Walsh: 9 goals and 34 assists = 43 points.

Fabian Zetterlund leads the Comets in shots with 175, and game-winning goals with seven.

Providence

  • Goals For (overall): 197 – 28th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (home): 101 – 29th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  • Cameron Hughes: 14 goals and 31 assists = 45 points.
  • Steven Fogarty: 12 goals and 30 assists = 42 points.
  • Oskar Steen: 15 goals and 20 assists = 35 points.
  • Jack Studnicka: 10 goals and 25 assists = 35 points.
  • Justin Brazeau: 15 goals and 16 assists = 31 points.

Cameron Hughes leads the Bruins in shots with 156, while Oskar Steen leads the team in game-winning goals with five.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica

  • Goals Against (overall): 204 – 8th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (away): 112 – 13th overall in the AHL.

Goaltending:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 22-8-5 with a GAA of 2.60, a 0.911 save percentage, and two shutouts. Schmid is 7th in the AHL in wins, 14th in GAA and shutouts, and 16th in save percentage.
  • Nico Daws has a record of 13-4-2 with a GAA of 2.57, a 0.913 save percentage, and two shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-8-2 with a GAA of 3.31, a 0.888 save percentage, and no shutouts.

Providence

  • Goals Against (overall): 188 – 2nd overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (home): 89 – 2nd overall in the AHL.

Goaltending:

  • Kyle Keyser has a record of 11-14-7 with a GAA of 2.75, a 0.908 save percentage, and one shutout.
  • Troy Grosenick has a record of 16-6-4 with a GAA of 2.00, a 0.933 save percentage, and three shutouts. Grosenick is 1st in the AHL in both GAA and save percentage, and 6th in shutouts.
  • Brandon Bussi has a record of 3-1-0 with a GAA of 2.43, a 0.927 save percentage, and one shutout.

Mohawk Valley Hockey Club Seeks Its Own Rink

Special Teams – Power Play.

Utica

  • Overall: 21.4% (49 goals in 229 opportunities) – 5th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 23.4% (26 goals in 111 opportunities) 7th overall in the AHL.

Chase DeLeo leads the Comets in power-play points with eighteen. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in power-play goals with eight, while Reilly Walsh leads in power-play assists with fifteen.

Providence

  • Overall: 17.6% (52 goals in 295 opportunities) – 26th overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 17.0% (26 goals in 153 opportunities) – 22nd overall in the AHL.

Cameron Hughes leads the Bruins in power-play points with nineteen. Steven Fogarty leads the team in power-play goals with six, while Hughes leads in power-play assists with eighteen.

Special Teams – Penalty Kill.

Utica

  • Overall: 81.6% (41 goals allowed in 223 times shorthanded) – 11th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 75.2% (28 goals allowed in 113 times shorthanded) – 28th overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded goals scored: 13 – 3rd overall in the AHL.

AJ Greer leads the Comets in shorthanded goals scored with four, which is also fourth in the American Hockey League.

Providence

  • Overall: 84.8% (42 goals allowed in 276 times shorthanded) – 3rd overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 86.0% (20 goals allowed in 143 times shorthanded) – 3rd overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded goals scored: 8 – 15th overall in the AHL.

Cameron Hughes leads the Bruins in shorthanded goals with four, which is also fifth in the American Hockey League.

Saturday night’s Utica Comets at Providence Bruins game is scheduled to start 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 on AHLTV.

This episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast features our NHL Playoff Preview show! Now that the field is set, we’ll discuss each first-round matchup and who we think will advance from each one. We also give an update on the Utica Comets and discuss a very big rink project by the Mohawk Valley Hockey Club and the EMPowerPlay Project! How do your playoff picks compare to ours?

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

Utica Comets at Rochester Americans Game Preview 04-29-2022

The Utica Comets travel to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY on Friday night to finish their regular-season series with the Americans.

Friday night’s game between the Utica Comets (42-19-8-1, 93 points, 0.664 points percentage) and Rochester Americans (36-29-7-3, 82 points, 0.547 points percentage) is huge for one team, and not so much so for the other one. The Utica Comets have already locked up first place overall in the Eastern Conference and cannot win the overall AHL regular-season title. The Americans, on the other hand, must win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive – if they lose they will be eliminated from the playoff race.

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The Comets will be playing this game at less than full power. Fabian Zetterlund, Kevin Bahl, Nolan Foote, Nikita Okhotiuk, Reilly Walsh, and Alexander Holtz – all of whom will finish the regular season on Friday night with the New Jersey Devils and will return to Utica in time for the start of the Calder Cup Playoffs. They will also most likely be without Frederik Gauthier, who has missed most of the month of April with an injury. To help fill the holes in the lineup, the Comets signed Shane Harper to a PTO on Friday. Harper played this season with the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL, and he led the team in scoring with fifty-two points.

The Americans received a boost to their lineup on Thursday when the Buffalo Sabres re-assigned defenseman Casey Fitzgerald to the team. According to the AHL Media Kit for this game, Aaron Dell is also on the Rochester roster even though the transactions page reports he was recalled by the Sabres on Thursday. Otherwise, the Rochester Americans have not experienced any other recalls to the NHL in over one month’s time.

Mohawk Valley Hockey Club Seeks Its Own Rink

The Utica Comets and Rochester Americans have squared off eleven times so far this season, with the Comets winning six of those games. Their last meeting was exactly one week ago, which resulted in a 3-2 overtime victory for Utica at the Adirondack Bank Center. Here is the tale of the tape for Friday night’s twelfth and final regular-season matchup between the two clubs.

Check out and subscribe to Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast YouTube channel!

Offense.

Utica

  • Goals For (overall): 241 – 6th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (away): 119 – 6th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers (does not include the players currently with the Devils):

  • Chase DeLeo: 18 goals and 35 assists = 53 points.
  • AJ Greer: 22 goals and 29 assists = 51 points.
  • Robbie Russo: 3 goals and 32 assists = 35 points.
  • Ryan Schmelzer: 18 goals and 14 assists = 32 points.
  • Frederik Gauthier: 8 goals and 24 assists = 32 points.

Chase DeLeo currently leads the team in shots with 164 and Graeme Clarke currently leads in game-winning goals with three.

Rochester

  • Goals For (overall): 246 – 3rd overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (home): 124 – 7th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  • JJ Peterka: 25 goals and 39 assists = 64 points.
  • Jack Quinn: 25 goals and 34 assists = 59 points.
  • Michael Mersch: 26 goals and 27 assists = 53 points.
  • Arttu Ruotsalainen: 18 goals and 33 assists = 51 points.
  • Ethan Prow: 10 goals and 38 assists = 48 points.

Peterka leads the team in shots with 219, while Quinn leads in game-winning goals with six.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica

  • Goals Against (overall): 196 – 6th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (away): 104 – 7th overall in the AHL.

Goaltending:

  • Nico Daws has a record of 13-3-2 with a GAA of 2.39, a 0.918 save percentage, and one shutout.
  • Akira Schmid has a record of 22-8-5 with a GAA of 2.54, a 0.913 save percentage, and two shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-8-2 with a GAA of 3.31 and a 0.888 save percentage.

Rochester

  • Goals Against (overall): 269 – 30th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (home): 126 – 28th overall in the AHL.

Goaltending:

  • Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has a record of 14-14-6 with a GAA of 3.30, a 0.899 save percentage, and one shutout.
  • Aaron Dell has a record of 12-7-1 with a GAA of 2.97, a 0.908 save percentage, and no shutouts.
  • Corbin Kaczperski has a record of 1-2-0, a GAA of 3.55, a 0.870 save percentage, and no shutouts.

Special Teams – Power Play.

Utica

  • Overall: 21.6% (49 goals in 227 opportunities) – 5th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 23.9% (26 goals in 109 opportunities) – 7th overall in the AHL.

Chase DeLeo leads the Comets in power-play points with eighteen. DeLeo and Robbie Russo lead the current roster in power-play assists with thirteen, while AJ Greer leads the current squad in power-play goals with five.

Rochester

  • Overall: 23.4% (64 goals in 274 opportunities) – 3rd overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 24.3% (33 goals in 136 opportunities) – 2nd overall in the AHL.

Oskari Laaksonen leads the Americans in power-play points with twenty-seven and power-play assists with twenty-three. Jack Quinn leads the team in power-play goals with ten.

Special Teams – Penalty Kill.

Utica

  • Overall: 81.8% (40 goals allowed in 220 times shorthanded) – 10th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 75.5% (27 goals allowed in 110 times shorthanded) – 28th overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded goals scored: 13 – 3rd overall in the AHL.

AJ Greer leads the Comets in shorthanded goals scored with four.

Rochester

  • Overall: 79.4% (54 goals allowed in 262 times shorthanded) – 23rd overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 80.5% (26 goals allowed in 113 times shorthanded) – 13th overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded goals scored: 4 – 29th overall in the AHL.

Four Amerks have scored one shorthanded goal each.

Friday 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), and the television broadcast begins at 7:05 on AHLTV.

This episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast features our NHL Playoff Preview show! Now that the field is set, we’ll discuss each first-round matchup and who we think will advance from each one. We also give an update on the Utica Comets and discuss a very big rink project by the Mohawk Valley Hockey Club and the EMPowerPlay Project! How do your playoff picks compare to ours? Let us know in the comments section! Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

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.

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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.

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

The North Division champions Utica Comets return home from Cleveland to face the Rochester Americans on Friday night.

The Utica Comets (41-19-8-1, 91 points, 0.659 points percentage) and their fans can take a deep breath. That’s because the wait to clinch the North Division regular-season crown is now over after they took three of four points in a two-game series against the Cleveland Monsters on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. They can now turn their attention to clinching home-ice advantage throughout the AHL playoffs, as they lead the Providence Bruins and Springfield Thunderbirds for that honor as well with just over one week remaining in the regular season.

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The Comets are still without Fabian Zetterlund, Kevin Bahl, and now Nikita Okhotiuk who is still with the New Jersey Devils (congratulations to Nikita on scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on Thursday night). They will also most likely not have Frederik Gauthier on Friday night either, as he has missed most of the month of April due to an injury. Help, however, is on the way.

Utica welcomed AJ Greer back on Wednesday night after he was reassigned to the team by the Devils. New Jersey has also announced that Nico Daws has been reassigned to the Comets after he had a strong showing in the NHL. Getting Daws back is huge for the Comets, as it gives the team a chance to get Akira Schmid some rest and it restores the goaltending tandem that the was the best in the American Hockey League through the first half of the season.

None of this will matter to their opponents on Friday night though. The Rochester Americans (36-27-6-3, 81 points, 0.563 points percentage) enter the game in fifth place in the North Division and are embroiled in a very tight race for a spot in the playoffs. The Comets will be once again facing a team fighting desperately to get in the playoffs, so let’s take a look at the tale of the tape between the Utica Comets and Rochester Americans.

Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters 04-20-2022 Three Observations

Offense.

Utica

  • Goals For (overall): 238 – 4th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (home): 119 – 7th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  • Chase DeLeo: 18 goals and 35 assists = 53 points.
  • Alexander Holtz: 25 goals and 25 assists = 50 points. Holtz is 3rd among AHL rookies in goals, 7th in points, and 16th in assists.
  • AJ Greer: 22 goals and 28 assists = 50 points.
  • Reilly Walsh: 8 goals and 32 assists = 40 points. Walsh is 8th in both points and assists among AHL defensemen.
  • Robbie Russo: 3 goals and 31 assists = 34 points. Russo is 11th among AHL defensemen in assists and 20th in points.

Alexander Holtz leads the Comets in shots with 162. Holtz, Reilly Walsh, and Graeme Clarke lead the club in game-winning goals with three each.

Rochester

  • Goals For (overall): 242 – 2nd overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (away): 120 – 5th overall in the AHL.

Leading Scorers:

  • JJ Peterka: 24 goals and 39 assists = 63 points. Peterka is 10th in the AHL in assists, 11th in points, and 6th in shots.
  • Jack Quinn: 25 goals and 32 assists = 57 points. Quinn is 20th in the AHL in both goals and points.
  • Michael Mersch: 26 goals and 27 assists = 53 points. Mersch is 17th in the AHL in goals.
  • Arttu Ruotsaiainen: 18 goals and 32 assists = 50 points.
  • Ethan Prow: 10 goals and 36 assists = 46 points. Prow is 3rd among AHL defensemen in points, 4th in assists, and 8th in goals.

Peterka leads the Americans in shots with 208. Quinn leads the club in game-winning goals with 6.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica

  • Goals Against (overall): 194 -7th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (home): 90 – 7th overall in the AHL.

Goaltenders:

  • Nico Daws has a record of 12-3-2 with a 2.42 GAA, a 0.918 save percentage, and one shutout. Daws does not have enough AHL games in to qualify for the leaders lists.
  • Akira Schmid has a record of 22-8-5 with a 2.54 GAA, a 0.913 save percentage, and two shutouts. Schmid is 6th in the AHL in wins, 13th in GAA, 16th in save percentage, and 15th in shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-8-2 with a 3.31 GAA, and a 0.888 save percentage.

Rochester

  • Goals Against (overall): 260 – 30th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (away): 138 – 31st in the AHL.

Goaltenders:

  • Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has a record of 14-13-5 with a GAA of 3.31, a 0.899 save percentage, and one shutout.
  • Aaron Dell has a record of 12-6-1 with a 3.02 GAA, a 0.907 save percentage, and no shutouts.
Joe Gambardella sets up a screen in front of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

Special Teams/Power-Play.

Utica

  • Overall: 21.4% (48 goals in 224 power-play opportunities) 5th overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 19.1% (22 goals in 115 power-play opportunities) 19th overall in the AHL.

Chase DeLeo leads the Comets in power-play points with eighteen. Alexander Holtz leads in power-play goals with six, while Reilly Walsh leads the team in power-play assists with fourteen.

Rochester

  • Overall: 24.0% (63 goals in 263 power-play opportunities) 3rd overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 23.7% (31 goals in 131 power-play opportunities) 7th overall in the AHL.

Oskari Laaksonen leads the Americans in power-play points with twenty-six and assists with twenty-two. Jack Quinn leads the team in power-play goals with ten.

Special Teams/Penalty Kill.

Utica

  • Overall: 81.6% (40 goals allowed in 217 times shorthanded) 10th overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 87.9% (13 goals allowed in 107 times shorthanded) 2nd overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded Goals Scored: 12 – 5th overall in the AHL.

AJ Greer leads the team in shorthanded goals with four.

Rochester

  • Overall: 80.0% (51 goals allowed in 255 times shorthanded) 20th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 80.9% (25 goals allowed in 131 times shorthanded) 14th overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded Goals Scored: 4 – 28th overall in the AHL.

Four skaters have one shorthanded goal each for Rochester.

Friday night’s game at the Adirondack Bank Center is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage starts with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 pm on WPNY and AHLTV.

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!

Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters 04-20-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets got the win they needed and are now the North Division Regular Season champions.

For the Utica Comets and their fans, the long wait is finally over. After stumbling through most of the month of April thereby delaying the inevitable clinching of the North Division crown, the Comets put it all together in the third period against the Cleveland Monsters to bring the title home. Utica now has a home-ice advantage through the North Division segment of the AHL Playoffs.

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They are also in the driver’s seat to clinch home ice throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, as only the Providence Bruins and Springfield Thunderbirds can now finish with a higher points percentage than the lowest possible points percentage the Comets can now finish with, which is 0.6319. The Comets travel to Providence on the last day of the regular season (April 30th) to face the Bruins.

The daily playoff primer the AHL provides is a great tool that provides clarification of the playoff races.

For Wednesday night’s game, the Comets welcomed back AJ Greer as he was assigned back to the team earlier in the day by the New Jersey Devils. They also welcomed back Tyler Irvine, Patrick Grasso, and Tim Theocharidis from the Adirondack Thunder, as well as a newcomer from the Thunder in the form of defenseman Jarrod Gourley. Utica would need them, as Tyce Thompson (injury), Tyler Wotherspoon (personal – congrats on the new baby Tyler!), Nikita Okhotiuk (callup to New Jersey), and Sam Laberge would all miss the game.

The game began in a very defensive state of mind, as neither team registered a single shot on goal until over five minutes after the opening faceoff. Like they did on Tuesday night, the Comets got the first goal of the game in the first period when Joe Gambardella sent a centering pass from the right corner of the Cleveland zone to the front of the net that redirected off of Aarne Talvitie’s skate and past Monsters goaltender Cam Johnson (making his second consecutive start) and into the net. Since there was no distinct kicking motion, the goal stood and the Comets took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Monsters made a big pushback in the second period. Cleveland’s leading scorer defenseman Jake Christiansen tied the game with just over nine minutes remaining in the period when he skated the puck across the Comets zone and wired a wrist shot from the left circle past a completely screened Akira Schmid – who like his counterpart Johnson was making his second start in as many days. The Monsters took the lead with just under five minutes remaining when while on the power play, Cole Clayton fired a wrist shot from the point past a completely screened Schmid to give Cleveland a 2-1 lead they would for the rest of the period.

Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters Series Preview April 19th and 20th.

The Utica Comets came out in the third period with an “enough is enough” attitude, and took complete control of the game. They tied the game at just 1:06 into the period when Jarrod Gourley got his first AHL goal in his first AHL game when he unleashed a howitzer from the top of the left circle and into the Monsters net. Just over a minute after the Gourley goal, Utica took the lead when current team-leading scorer Chase DeLeo snapped his own rebound off a shot from the right circle past Johnson to light the lamp.

The Comet’s fourth goal of the game and third of the period came at the 13:34 mark when Alexander Holtz scored a “highlight reel” type of goal when he darted to the front of the Cleveland net and shot the puck from between his legs past Johnson for his team-leading twenty-fifth goal of the season. Cleveland got a goal from Thomas Schemitsch with four and a half minutes remaining to make it interesting, but Schmid and the Utica defense slammed the door the rest of the way to preserve their 4-3 victory. This was the eighth and final time these teams will play each other this season, with the Comets winning five of those games.

Utica’s next game is against the Rochester Americans at the Adirondack Bank Center on Friday night. Before we move on to that game, let’s take a look at the three observations from Wednesday night’s victory over the Monsters.

The band is getting back together.

As previously stated, AJ Greer was reassigned to the Utica Comets on Wednesday morning and he made his presence felt on Wednesday night. He didn’t register a point, but he had two shots on goal and more importantly was a physical presence all night. He wreaked havoc in front of the Cleveland net and had a fight as well. Greer’s physical presence was sorely missed by the Comets and it showed in this game.

Greer wasn’t the only one assigned to the Comets by the Devils on Wednesday. They also announced goaltender Nico Daws is coming back to Utica as well. The tandem of Schmid and Daws that carried Utica to it’s incredible, record-breaking start to the season is finally back together – just in time for the playoffs. Speaking of the playoffs, the Comets will also have Fabian Zetterlund, Kevin Bahl, and Nikita Okhotiuk back by then.

Aarne Talvitie is quietly having a great season.

He doesn’t get the headlines his more high-profile teammates do, but Aarne Talvitie has been a big part of the Comets success this season. In his second professional season after playing eighteen games in Binghamton last season, the twenty-three year old center has quietly put together a very solid season. He has twelve goals and eleven assists in sixty-five games played so far (including a three-point night on Wednesday), but he has been the defensive stalwart center every successful team needs. He is a +14 on the season so far, has two shorthanded goals and two game-winning goals. He has just as many game-winning goals so far this season as AJ Greer, Nolan Foote, Chase DeLeo, and Brian Flynn.

The power-play has suffered a power outage.

The Comets started the month of April out red hot on the power-play, when they scored five goals in eleven opportunities in their first three games of the month. Since then, the unit has gone cold, scoring only one goal in twenty-three power-play chances over their past six games. The lack of efficiency on the power-play certainly contributed to the rough patch the team has endured over the past few weeks.

Overall, Utica has the fifth-best power-play in the American Hockey League, so this should be just a bump in the road. Getting AJ Greer back and eventually Zetterlund as well will be a huge boost to the unit that should help turn things around. Reilly Walsh and Alexander Holtz are emerging from the slumps they recently suffered as well, so the Comets power-play should be back to normal by the time the playoffs start.

This Thursday night April 21st, an all-new 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! We’ll chat about the game, the story, the upcoming NHL Playoffs, and an outdoor hockey program that was run by the Gumper – who will be joining us on the show! The show starts on the Martys Illegal Stick Podcast YouTube channel and Facebook page at 7:30 pm EDT!

Utica Comets vs Cleveland Monsters 04-19-2022 Three Observations

Both the Utica Comets and Cleveland Monsters blew leads in this game, but it was the Monsters that came out on top 4-3 in overtime.

The Utica Comets have been playing a lot of teams lately that are in the midst of a desperate push for the playoffs. On Tuesday night, they faced the Cleveland Monsters in the first of a two-game set on the shores of Lake Erie. The Comets are closing in on the North Division regular-season title, while the Monsters are on the opposite end of the division; as they are in last place and eliminated from playoff contention.

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The Comets started Tuesday night’s game in dominating fashion, taking seven shots on Monsters starting goaltender Cam Johnson in the first three and a half minutes of the game. The seventh shot turned out to be lucky number seven, as Tyler Wotherspoon sprung Utica’s team-leading scorer Chase DeLeo on a breakaway in which he snapped a shot over Johnson’s glove to the Comets an early 1-0 lead.

Cleveland swung the momentum in their favor after the DeLeo goal, getting ten shots of their own in on Utica starting goaltender Akira Schmid. It was the Comets, however, who would get the next goal. Nolan Foote sent a centering pass from behind the Cleveland net to Brian Flynn, whose backhand shot from the slot was deflected off of a Monsters defender and into their net with just one minute and forty seconds left in the period. The goal extended Flynn’s three-goal point streak – currently the longest one on the team.

Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters Series Preview April 19th and 20th.

Although they will not make the playoffs, the Monsters to their credit did not give up after going down by two goals. They plugged away for the entire second period and finally broke through with just under a minute left in the frame when Roman Achan sent a pass from the front of the Utica net to Owen Sillinger, who fired a shot past Schmid from the bottom of the left circle to cut the Comets lead in half heading into the second intermission.

The third period started with a fight between Sam Laberge and Billy Sweezey just two and half minutes after the opening faceoff. Ten seconds after the fisticuffs, Cleveland’s Dillon Simpson took a slashing penalty to put the Comets on the power-play with a chance to restore their two-goal lead. They thought they had done just that when Alexander Holtz blasted a shot into the Cleveland net from the left circle, but it was waived off as the play was blown dead prior to the shot when Johnson’s helmet had come off.

This would come back to haunt the Comets, as the Monsters tied the game with just under six minutes to go when Tyce Thompson’s pass in his own zone was deflected right to Cleveland’s Justin Scott. Scott then buried a wrist shot from the slot for his fifteenth goal of the season. Three minutes later, the Monsters took their first lead of the game when Cole Fonstadsent a saucer pass through the neutral zone to Trey Fix-Wolansky, who got behind the defense and beat Schmid on the glove side to put the home team up by one with just under three minutes remaining.

They haven’t been dubbed the “Cardiac Comets” for nothing, and Utica earned that moniker once again on Tuesday night. With Schmid on the bench for an extra skater, Ryan Schmelzer scored with one minute remaining to tie the game. The third period ended with a tie score and another fight, as Robbie Russo and Justin Scott dropped the gloves as time expired in regulation.

It only took one minute and thirty-one minutes into overtime for the Monsters to stun the Eastern Conference-leading Comets. Tim Berni picked up a loose puck and got it to Tyler Sikura who beat Schmid with the only shot of the overtime to seal the win for his team. The two teams will face each other again on Wednesday night at the same venue, here are three observations from Cleveland’s 4-3 overtime victory on Tuesday night.

Despite the loss, the Comet’s magic number went down.

The Utica Comets entered Tuesday night’s game with a magic number of three to clinch the North Division regular season. The second-place Laval Rocket did not play, so the number would only be affected by the play of the Comets. Although they did not pick up a victory, they did earn one point for making it to overtime. Their magic number for the division title is now two, so one more win and it is theirs – regardless of what Laval does in the remainder of their games.

The Comets are stumbling at the wrong time.

The good news is the Comets have locked up their playoff spot, will win the North Division regular-season title, and still have a very good chance to clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The bad news is they have gone into a slump as a team at the most inopportune time. In the eight games they have played in the month of April, the Comets have only two wins and six points – hardly the finish to the regular season the team wants. Additionally, they have blown leads of at least two goals in three of these games.

Ideally, the Comets will want to have some momentum on their side heading into the playoffs, and starting Wednesday night, they have four games remaining (one at home and three on the road) to get back on track before the postseason tournament begins.

When Will Key Players Come Back From New Jersey?

The Utica Comets will be getting reinforcements back from the New Jersey Devils by the end of April at the latest. The Devils recalled Fabian Zetterlund, AJ Greer, and Kevin Bahl in early April, and goaltender Nico Daws has been with the team for most of the second half of the season. All four will be back in Utica for the start of the AHL Playoffs, the question now is when exactly will that happen?

New Jersey management has given no timeline as to when that will happen. Zetterlund, Bahl, and Daws have been regulars in the lineup during New Jersey’s recent western road trip, but with Andreas Johnsson returning to the lineup, it appears that AJ Greer has been reassigned to the Comets as it has been listed on the AHL transactions page. Greer will be a very welcome addition to a Utica lineup that could use his physicality and scoring touch. Greer would make his return on either Wednesday night in Cleveland or home on Friday night at home against Rochester.

The latest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast will feature a doubleheader of guests! First up will be one of the in-game hosts for the Utica Comets Brennan Miller to chat about the Comets and the upcoming playoffs, what goes into preparing all the presentations throughout a game (there’s a lot to it), the upcoming “Roaring 20’s Night” with the Utica Club themed jerseys and much more! Then, the Voice of the Berglund Center for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roy Chambers makes his return to update us on the Rail Yard Dawgs and the SPHL Playoffs!

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters Series Preview April 19th and 20th.

The Utica Comets visit the home of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame for two games against the Cleveland Monsters with a chance to lock up the North Division Regular Season title.

The Utica Comets (40-19-7-1, 88 points, 0.657 points percentage) have an opportunity to wrap up the number one seed in the North Division for the AHL Playoffs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when they play the Cleveland Monsters (24-33-8-5, 61 points, 0.436 points percentage) in a two-game set at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. They have a magic number of three to clinch the North Division crown, so a win and at least an overtime game will do the trick. These two games will be the final two times these teams will meet this season, as Cleveland has been eliminated from playoff contention. The Comets have won four of the six games they have played so far, but the Monsters have won the last two meetings.

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The Comets continue to be without leading scorer Fabian Zetterlund, as well as AJ Greer and Kevin Bahl, as the trio is still with the New Jersey Devils. They will also most likely be without Frederik Gauthier, as he has missed the last six games due to injury and may not be back until the playoffs. Utica has recently brought in forwards Brian Halonen and Garrett Van Wyhe via the college free agent route, and with the Adirondack Thunder’s ECHL season over, the team has announced more help is on the way (please see the tweet below).

With the Comets playing for a division title, and the Monsters playing for pride, here’s the tale of the tape for the two-game series kicking off on Tuesday night in Cleveland, Ohio.

Offense.

Utica

  • Goals For (overall): 231 – 4th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (away): 112 -7th overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  1. Chase DeLeo: 16 goals and 34 assists = 50 points.
  2. Alexander Holtz: 24 goals and 25 assists = 49 points. Holtz is 4th among AHL rookies in goals, 7th in points, 15th in assists.
  3. Reilly Walsh: 8 goals and 31 assists = 39 points. Walsh is 9th among AHL defensemen in points, and tenth in assists.
  4. Robbie Russo: 3 goals and 30 assists = 33 points. Russo is 13th among AHL defensemen in assists.
  5. Nolan Foote: 14 goals and 17 assists = 31 points.

Alexander Holtz leads the team in shots with 154, while Graeme Clarke and Reilly Walsh lead in game-winning goals with three each.

Cleveland

  • Goals For (overall): 186 – 28th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals For (home): 88 – 31st overall in the AHL.

Leading scorers:

  1. Jake Christiansen: 12 goals and 30 assists = 42 points. Christiansen is 1st among AHL defensemen in goals, 4th in points, and 12th in assists.
  2. Tyler Angle: 10 goals and 26 assists = 36 points.
  3. Justin Scott: 14 goals and 16 assists = 30 points.
  4. Tyler Sikura: 12 goals and 18 assists = 30 points.
  5. Trey Fix-Wolansky: 12 goals and 14 assists = 26 points.

Christiansen leads the Monsters in shots with 162 and Sikura leads the club in game-winning goals with four.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica

  • Goals Against (overall): 187 – 6th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (away): 97 – 6th overall in the AHL.

Goaltenders:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 21-8-4 with a GAA of 2.49, 0.915 save percentage, and two shutouts. He is 6th in the league in wins, 12th in GAA, 13th in save percentage, and 14th in shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-8-2 with a GAA of 3.31, and a 0.888 save percentage.
  • Brandon Kasel has no AHL record. He had a record of 8-15-2 with a GAA of 3.56, a save percentage of 0.895, and one shutout for the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL this season.

Cleveland

  • Goals Against (overall): 247 – 28th overall in the AHL.
  • Goals Against (home): 122 – 29th overall in the AHL.
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Goaltenders:

  • Jet Greaves has a record of 11-11-2, with a GAA of 2.90, a 0.906 save percentage and one shutout. He has won both of his starts against the Comets this season.
  • Cam Johnson has a record of 4-8-3, with a GAA of 3.32 and a 0.879 save percentage.
  • Linden Marshall has a record of 0-1-0 with a 4.50 GAA and a 0.854 save percentage.

Special Teams/Power-Play.

Utica

  • Overall: 22.0% (48 goals in 218 opportunities) – 5th in the AHL.
  • Away: 25.2% (26 goals in 103 opportunities) – 4th in the AHL.

Chase DeLeo leads the Comets in power-play points with eighteen. Alexander Holtz leads the team in power-play goals with six, while Reilly Walsh leads in power-play assists with fourteen.

Cleveland

  • Overall: 16.4% (37 goals in 225 opportunities) – 27th overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 11.1% (13 goals in 117 opportunities) – 31st overall in the AHL.

Jake Christiansen leads the Monsters in power-play points with fourteen and power-play assists with ten. Kevin Stenlund leads the team in power-play goals with five.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators 04-16-2022 Three Observations

Special Teams/Penalty Kill.

Utica

  • Overall: 82.0% (38 goals allowed in 211 times shorthanded) – 10th overall in the AHL.
  • Away: 76.0% (25 goals allowed in 104 times shorthanded) – 27th overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded Goals: 12 – 4th overall in the AHL.

With AJ Greer and his four shorthanded goals scored currently with the Devils, Aarne Talvitie and Frederik Gauthier lead the team in shorthanded goals scored with two each.

Cleveland

  • Overall: 79.4% (53 goals allowed in 257 times shorthanded) – 21st overall in the AHL.
  • Home: 82.8% (21 goals allowed in 122 times shorthanded) – 10th overall in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded Goals: 9 – 12th overall in the AHL.

Carson Meyer and his three shorthanded goals are currently with the Columbus Blue Jackets, leaving the Monsters with six skaters that have one shorthanded goal each.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday night’s games are scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 pm on AHLTV.

The latest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast will feature a doubleheader of guests! First up will be one of the in-game hosts for the Utica Comets Brennan Miller to chat about the Comets and the upcoming playoffs, what goes into preparing all the presentations throughout a game (there’s a lot to it), the upcoming “Roaring 20’s Night” with the Utica Club themed jerseys and much more! Then, the Voice of the Berglund Center for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roy Chambers makes his return to update us on the Rail Yard Dawgs and the SPHL Playoffs!

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts! Check out https://martysillegalstick.com for articles and everything about Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast!

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators 04-16-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets fell to the Belleville Senators on Saturday night by a score of 4-1, as their magic number to clinch the North Division remains at five.

The Utica Comets went back in time on Saturday night for a “Roaring 20’s Night” all over the Adirondack Bank Center, with Model T cars out front, many men and women adorned in the dress of the period, and 20’s era music. On the ice, the Comets wore a special edition uniform that was a salute to the city’s iconic beer brand, Utica Club – which proudly declares on its packaging that it was the first beer sold in the United States after prohibition. Coming off of a big win over Syracuse on Friday night, the home crowd was ready to continue the party.

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The Comet’s opponent on this night, the Belleville Senators, was not in the mood to party. While Utica has already clinched their playoff spot and is closing in on the North Division regular-season crown, the Senators desperately need wins to stay in an extremely tight playoff race. Entering this game, Belleville was clinging to the fifth and final playoff spot in the division over the Rochester Americans – who were also playing on Saturday night and could overtake the Senators with a win and a Belleville loss.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators Game Preview 04-16-2022

On a side note, the uniform aesthetics for both teams had a “Roaring 20’s” type of look. The Comets uniforms were of course a nod to the era as I mentioned, but whether it is intentional or not, so was Belleville’s. The black, red, and white on their uniform kit, along with their logo are reminiscent of the first incarnation of the Ottawa Senators from the 1920s. (check out this link for a look at how all the old hockey uniforms looked https://nhluniforms.com).

The game itself had a very slow start, as only one total shot on goal was taken within the first five and half minutes. The action would pick up later in the period, however, as both teams wound up with nine shots on goal for the frame. The Comets scored the only goal of the period when Nolan Foote took a drop pass from Robbie Russo and snapped a seemingly innocent-looking shot from the Belleville blue line that eluded Senators goaltender Mads Sogaard and wound up in the net. Sogaard was reassigned to Belleville and goaltender Filip Gustavsson was recalled to Ottawa prior to this game.

The Senators tied the game at the 6:34 mark of the second period when a Viktor Lodin shot from the point deflected off a body in front of the Utica net and got by Comets goaltender Mareks Mitens. The home team responded by outshooting the visitors by a margin of seven to two, but it was the Senators that wound up taking the lead. With fifteen seconds remaining in the period, Mitens misplayed the puck behind his net resulting in a Logan Shaw goal that gave the Senators the lead and a boost heading into the second intermission.

The third period was a tight-checking affair, as a total of only ten shots on goal were generated. The only goals in the period came in the last minute, and both were scored by Belleville. Scott Sabourin scored into a vacated Utica net with forty-six seconds left to give the Senators the insurance goal they were looking for. Mark Kastelic scored another with just seven seconds remaining (this time with Mitens in the net) to seal his team’s 4-1 victory and keep Belleville’s playoff hopes alive. With the win, the Senators moved into fourth place in the North Division, while the first place Comets still have a magic number of five to clinch the division.

The Utica Comets will now travel to Cleveland for a two-game set with the last place Monsters on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. With Saturday night in the books, here are three observations from this game.

Garrett Van Wyhe Makes His Debut.

Between callups and injuries, the Comets have holes in their lineup they need to fill for the time being. To help do that, they signed undrafted college free agent Garrett Van Wyhe out of the University of Michigan. In his senior season for the Wolverines, Van Wyhe had six goals, six assists, and forty-two PIM in forty-two games. He actually dressed Friday night against Syracuse but did not get inserted into the lineup.

Coach Kevin Dineen instead chose to plug Van Wyhe into the lineup on Saturday night, as he centered the fourth line with Brian Halonen and Sam Laberge on his wings. It was an interesting choice given Halonen is a recent college free agent himself with all of six games of AHL experience going into the game, but the trio brought an element of physicality – which leads us to the second observation.

The Comets Played Another Physical Game.

Friday nights game against Syracuse was a physical, playoff type battle for the Comets. Saturday night against the Senators wasn’t quite as chippy, but it was very physical all the same. As the regular season winds down and teams have a ramped up sense of urgency to either get in or improve their playoff standing, Utica can expect more of these types of games.

The Comets still have Nikita Okhotiuk, Ryan Schmelzer, and the aforementioned trio among others to provide physicality. They will also get a boost in that department when AJ Greer, Kevin Bahl, and Fabian Zetterlund return from their recall to the New Jersey Devils, but this weekend Chase DeLeo and Alexander Holtz were also noticable for their increased physicality. Combine that with their outstanding scoring abilities and it adds a whole new element to the team going forward.

The AHL Has Some Things to Look at in the Off-Season.

Refereeing is a very difficult job at any level, let alone in a league that is one step below the NHL. The referees did not by any means cost the Comets the game on Saturday night, but the officiating for both games in Utica this weekend was certainly questionable at times. Chalk it up to a crew that perhaps did not have a lot of experience at the AHL level that should get better with time.

My biggest gripe is with the way faceoffs are handled. Yes, we know there is a crackdown on positioning and timing in the faceoff dot, but faceoffs should not be this aggravating. More often times than not, the game is being held up unecessarily for the most minor of facoff infractions – creating frustration for players, coaches, and fans alike. Of course cheating should be allowed during faceoffs, but the way the rules are set up they are being over-regulated at this point.

Bonus Observation: It’s Tough to be a Penalty Killer.

There might a shortage of icepacks in the city of Utica for the next few days. That’s because Jacob Bernard-Docker of the Senators blocked not one, not two, but three Alexander Holtz one timers during one Utica power play in the second period. It was apparent from his reactions that Bernard-Docker’s padding did not get all of those shots, so who could blame him for using as many icepacks as he can.

The latest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast will feature a doubleheader of guests! First up will be one of the in-game hosts for the Utica Comets Brennan Miller to chat about the Comets and the upcoming playoffs, what goes into preparing all the presentations throughout a game (there’s a lot to it), the upcoming “Roaring 20’s Night” with the Utica Club themed jerseys and much more! Then, the Voice of the Berglund Center for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roy Chambers makes his return to update us on the Rail Yard Dawgs and the SPHL Playoffs!

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts! Check out https://martysillegalstick.com for articles and everything about Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast!

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators Game Preview 04-16-2022

The Utica Comets face another North Division rival on Saturday night that is desperate to stay in the playoff race.

The Utica Comets (40-18-7-1, 88 points, 0.667 points percentage – first place in the North Division), broke a four-game losing streak on Friday night by defeating the Syracuse Crunch – a team that needs wins to stay in the thick of the North Division playoff race. On Saturday night, they will face the Belleville Senators (35-27-4-0, 74 points, 0.561 points percentage) at the Adirondack Bank Center. The Senators are a team that is clinging to the fifth spot in the North Division and also in desperate need of wins to stay in the playoff race. This is the sixth and final regular-season matchup between the two teams with the Comets winning three of those games.

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It should be a party-like atmosphere at the Adirondack Bank Center as it will be “Roaring 20’s Theme Night” with the home team wearing jerseys inspired by Utica Club beer and much more. On the ice it will be anything but a party, as the Comet’s magic number to clinch the North Division title is down to five and the Senators are desperate for points to stay in the playoff race. With another potentially intense game on the docket, here’s the “tale of the tape” for the Utica Comets against the Belleville Senators.

Offense.

Utica

  • Goals For (overall): 230 (4th in the AHL).
  • Goals For (home): 118 (6th in the AHL).

Leading scorers:

  1. Chase DeLeo: 16 goals and 34 assists = 50 points.
  2. Alexander Holtz: 24 goals and 25 assists = 49 points.
  3. Reilly Walsh: 8 goals and 31 assists = 39 points.
  4. Robbie Russo: 3 goals and 29 assists = 32 points.
  5. Ryan Schmelzer: 16 goals and 14 assists = 30 points. Nolan Foote: 13 goals and 17 assists = 30 points.

Alexander Holtz leads the team in shots with 151. Graeme Clarke and Reilly Walsh lead the club in game-winning goals with three each. Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer are still with the New Jersey Devils so they are not included among the current offense stats. According to Ben Birnell of the Daily Sentinel, Frederik Gauthier will not return this Saturday night so he is not included either.

Belleville

  • Goals For (overall): 197 (18th in the AHL).
  • Goals For (away): 99 (12th in the AHL).

Leading scorers:

  1. Jake Lucchini: 20 goals and 27 assists = 47 points.
  2. Egor Sokolov: 19 goals and 25 assists = 44 points.
  3. Andrew Agozzino: 18 goals and 17 assists = 35 points.
  4. Zach Senyshyn: 19 goals and 14 assists = 33 points.
  5. Roby Jurventie: 11 goals and 22 assists = 33 points.

Sokolov leads the Senators in shots 157. Sokolov and Senyshyn lead in game-winning goals with five each.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica

  • Goals Agaginst (overall): 183 (6th in the AHL).
  • Goals Against (home): 86 (8th in the AHL).

Goaltenders:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 21-8-4 with a GAA of 2.49, a 0.915 save percentage, and two shutouts. He is ranked 6th in the AHL in wins, 12th in GAA, 13th in save percentage, and 15th in shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-7-2 with a GAA of 3.33, and a save percentage of 0.890.

Belleville

  • Goals Against (overall): 201 (16th in the AHL).
  • Goals Against (away): 96 (8th in the AHL).

Goaltenders:

  • Logan Flodell has a record of 0-1-1 with a GAA of 3.61, and a save percentage of 0.881.
  • Filip Gustavsson has a record of 9-6-1 with a GAA of 2.50, a save percentage of 0.913, and two shutouts. He defeated the Comets in both of his starts against them last week.
  • Kevin Mandolese has a record of 9-5-0 with a GAA of 3.12 and a 0.901 save percentage.
  • Michael McNiven has a record of 4-4-2 with a GAA of 3.97, a save percentage of 0.870 and one shutout.

Special Teams – Power-Play.

Utica

  • Overall: 48 goals in 215 opportunities for a success rate of 22.3% (5th in the AHL).
  • Home: 22 goals in 112 opportunities for a success rate of 19.6% (16th in the AHL).

The power-play leaders for the Comets are:

  • Points: Chase DeLeo with 18.
  • Goals: Alexander Holtz with 6.
  • Assists: Reilly Walsh with 14.

Belleville

  • Overall: 48 goals in 252 opportunities for a success rate of 19.0% (19th in the AHL).
  • Away: 25 goals in 119 opportunities for a success rate of 21.0% (11th in the AHL).

The power-play leaders for the Senators are:

  • Points: Egor Sokolov with 14.
  • Goals: Lassi Thomson, Jake Lucchini, and Sokolov with 6.
  • Assists: Zac Leslie with 12.

Utica Comets Call Ups Continue to Shine for the New Jersey Devils

Special Teams – Penalty Kill.

Utica

  • Overall: 38 goals allowed in 208 times shorthanded for a success rate of 81.7% (10th in the AHL).
  • Home: 13 goals allowed in 104 times shorthanded for a success rate of 87.5% (2nd in the AHL).
  • Shorthanded Goals Scored: 12 (4th in the AHL).
  • Shorthanded Goal Leader: Aarne Talvitie with two.

Belleville

  • Overall: 47 goals allowed in 276 times shorthanded for a success rate of 83.0% (7th in the AHL).
  • Away: 23 goals allowed in 142 times shorthanded for a success rate of 83.8% (6th in the AHL).
  • Shorthanded Goals Scored: 9 (10th in the AHL).
  • Shorthanded Goal Leader: Cole Rienhardt with three.

Saturday night’s game is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV.

The latest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast will feature a doubleheader of guests! First up will be one of the in-game hosts for the Utica Comets Brennan Miller to chat about the Comets and the upcoming playoffs, what goes into preparing all the presentations throughout a game (there’s a lot to it), the upcoming “Roaring 20’s Night” with the Utica Club themed jerseys and much more! Then, the Voice of the Berglund Center for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roy Chambers makes his return to update us on the Rail Yard Dawgs and the SPHL Playoffs!

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts! Check out https://martysillegalstick.com for articles and everything about Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast!

Utica Comets vs Syracuse Crunch 04-15-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets completed their regular season series with the Syracuse Crunch with a 5-1 victory to inch closer to the North Division title.

The Utica Comets had been experiencing something unusual during the month of April – a losing streak. Entering their game on Friday night, the team was in the midst of their first four-game losing streak of the season, although they did clinch a spot in the 2022 AHL Playoffs during that time. Even though their playoff spot is secure, the Comets badly needed a win

Their opponent on Friday night, the Syracuse Crunch, was also in need of a win. The Crunch are in third place in a very tight North Division where second and sixth place are separated by a mere 0.05 points percentage. With four remaining playoff spots up for grabs, Syracuse needs to keep winning or risk falling out of a playoff spot with just over two weeks remaining in the regular season.

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The Crunch came out of the gates looking like a team determined to pick up a victory, as they poured seven shots in on Utica goaltender Akira Schmid in the first five minutes of the game. Schmid did not yield any goals, however, and it was the Comets who struck first at the 8:09 mark. Nikita Okhotiuk fired a wrist shot from the left point of the Syracuse zone that got by Crunch goaltender Hugo Alnefelt to give the Comets a 1-0 lead they would take into the first intermission.

The disdain the two teams have for each other boiled over in a chippy second period, as a total of nine penalties were called. As far as the scoring goes, the Comets took a 2-0 lead at the five-minute mark when Alexander Holtz sent a pass from the goal line on the right side of the Syracuse zone to Reilly Walsh, who charged into the slot and snapped a shot past Alenefelt.

The physicality ramped up with under five minutes left in the second when Nikita Okhotiuk connected with a clean open-ice hit on Gabriel Dumont to which his teammate Cole Koepke took exception. He started a fight with the Utica defenseman for which he took an instigator penalty that put the Comets on the power play. It would work in the favor of the Crunch though, as while killing the penalty Darren Raddysh sprung Anthony Richard on a breakaway that he would score on to cut the Utica lead in half heading into the second intermission.

Utica Comets vs Syracuse Crunch Game Preview 04-15-2022

Utica got a shorthanded goal of their own in the third period when on the tail end of a Graeme Clarke slashing penalty, Tyler Wotherspoon beat Alnefelt with a sharp angle shot from the left side of the Syracuse zone to restore the Comet’s two-goal lead. With less than three minutes remaining, Brian Flynn sent a shot from his own zone all the way into an open Syracuse net, followed by a goal by Brian Halonen to seal the victory for the Comets. Tyler Wotherspoon earned the first of the game with his one goal and two assists performance.

This was the fourteenth and final regular-season meeting between the two teams and the Comets dominated the series – winning eleven of the matchups. With the win, the Comet’s magic number to win the North Division is now five, while Syracuse’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is eleven. With both teams moving on to their next games, here are the three observations from Friday night.

Some Rest Did the Comets Good.

Prior to Friday night’s game against Syracuse, the Comets had not played a game since the previous Saturday at Laval. Prior to the Laval game, Utica had played eight games, including five games in one week. Couple this with losing four key players during that time (Zetterlund, Greer, Bahl, and Gauthier), and the Comets really needed a chance to reset and “recharge the batteries” so to speak.

It was just what the doctor ordered. Although the Crunch dominated the first five minutes of the game, the Comets rebounded and got stronger as the game went on. The third period really stood out for Utica as, despite a spirited effort by the Crunch, the defense was airtight and Schmid stymied the Crunch comeback attempt. It was reminiscent of what Comet fans had grown used to seeing through the first half of the season.

Reilly Walsh is Back.

After enduring a stretch of sixteen games where he recorded only two points over fifteen games, defenseman Reilly Walsh appears to have found his mojo again. With his goal against the Crunch, he now has three points over his past four games. The Comets will need Walsh to be firing on all cylinders for the playoffs, as he is a key factor in their transition game that drives the offense. It is clear that over the past four games he is regaining his swagger and that will pay huge dividends for the Comets going forward.

Playoff Like Atmosphere on Friday Night.

The tension between the Comets and the Crunch was obvious right from the opening faceoff on Friday night. That’s bound to happen when teams play each other for the fourteenth time in one season of course, but throw in the playoff implications, and you have the makings of a very tense game. Even though the score was lopsided, the game displayed all the intensity that comes with playoff hockey. If this was a preview of what to expect, then come May the Calder Cup Playoffs are going to be a lot of fun!

The latest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast will feature a doubleheader of guests! First up will be one of the in-game hosts for the Utica Comets Brennan Miller to chat about the Comets and the upcoming playoffs, what goes into preparing all the presentations throughout a game (there’s a lot to it), the upcoming “Roaring 20’s Night” with the Utica Club themed jerseys and much more! Then, the Voice of the Berglund Center for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roy Chambers makes his return to update us on the Rail Yard Dawgs and the SPHL Playoffs!

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts! Check out https://martysillegalstick.com for articles and everything about Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast!

Utica Comets vs Syracuse Crunch Game Preview 04-15-2022

The Utica Comets play their first game in almost a week when they host the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Despite not picking a win in their past four games, the Utica Comets (39-18-7-1, 86 points, 0.662 points percentage – 1st place in the North Division) have clinched a spot in the 2022 AHL Playoffs. They have now had a stretch of five nights without a game, giving them a chance to reset and refocus on their next goal, which is the North Division title for which their magic number is seven. Their opponent on Friday night is the Syracuse Crunch (35-24-7-2, 79 points, 0.581 points percentage – third place in the North Division), who chasing a magic number themselves. They need twelve points to secure a spot in the 2022 AHL Playoffs. The Comets lead the season series by a 10-1-2 margin.

The Comets have been playing without some key players for the past nine days. Forwards Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer, along with defenseman Kevin Bahl were recalled to the New Jersey Devils to help fill holes in their lineup created but injuries. The Devils are currently on a western road trip, so the trio will not be back in the near future.

Utica Comets Call Ups Continue to Shine for the New Jersey Devils

Utica is hoping to get Frederik Gauthier for their weekend slate of games. The hulking center has missed the last five games due to injury, and without him, Zetterlund, Greer, and Bahl in the lineup the Comet’s play have suffered – their last win was on April 1st against the Crunch. To help fill their own holes in the lineup, the Comets have signed forward Garrett Van Wyhe from the University of Michigan. Van Wyhe had six goals and six assists to go with forty-two PIM in his senior year for the Wolverines and is hoping to make his AHL debut against the Crunch.

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The Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch meet for the fourteenth and final time in the regular season, here’s the “tale of the tape” between the two bitter rivals.

Offense.

The Comets are sixth in the AHL in overall goals scored with 225. At home, they rank eighth, where they have scored 113. With Zetterlund and Greer out of the lineup, here are their leading scorers:

  1. Chase DeLeo: 16 goals and 34 assists = 50 points (he is ranked 18th in the AHL in assists).
  2. Alexander Holtz: 24 goals and 23 assists = 47 points.
  3. Reilly Walsh: 7 goals and 31 assists = 38 points (he is 9th among AHL defensemen in both points and assists).
  4. Frederik Gauthier: 8 goals and 24 assists = 32 points.
  5. Robbie Russo: 3 goals and 29 assists = 32 points (he is 11th among AHL defensemen in assists).

If Gauthier is still unable to play, Nolan Foote (13 goals and 17 assists would join this list. Alexander Holtz currently leads the team in shots with 149 and Graeme Clarke sets the pace in game-winning goals with three.

The Crunch is ranked eleventh in the American Hockey League in overall goals scored with 213. On the road, they scored 109, which is eighth in the league. Their leading scorers are as follows:

  1. Gabriel Dumont: 27 goals and 29 assists = 56 points (he is 11th in the AHL in goals and 18th in points).
  2. Alex Barre-Boulet: 16 goals and 39 assists = 55 points (he in 8th in the AHL in assists and 10th in shots).
  3. Charles Hudon: 24 goals and 25 assists = 49 points.
  4. Cole Koepke: 20 goals and 19 assists = 39 points (he is 14th in the AHL in shots).
  5. Sean Day: 8 goals and 31 assists = 39 points (he is 7th aming AHL defensemen in points and 8th in assists).

Barre-Boulet leads Syracuse in shots with 186, while Hudon and Dumont lead the team in game-winning goals with five.

The action heats up in front of the Syracuse net during a game between the Comets and the Crunch at the Adirondack Bank Center. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica is ranked fifth in the AHL in total goals allowed – yielding 182 so far for the season. At home, they have given up 85 goals, which ranks sixth in the league. The Comets goaltending corps is comprised of:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 20-8-4, with a GAA of 2.53, a save percentage of 0.914, and two shutouts. He is ranked 7th in the AHL in wins, 13th in GAA, 15th in shutouts, and 17th in save percentage.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-7-2 with a GAA of 3.33, and a 0.890 save percentage.

Syracuse is ranked twenty-first in the American Hockey League in overall goals allowed, as they have yielded 212 this season. On the road, they have allowed 119, which is the twenty-sixth in the league. The Crunch have three goaltenders on their roster, and they are:

  • Max Legace has a record of 18-9-2, with a GAA of 2.58, a 0.900 save percentage, and three shutouts. He is 8th in the AHL in shutouts, 11th in wins, and 14th in GAA.
  • Hugo Alnefelt has a record of 9-5-4, with a GAA of 3.00, and a 0.884 save percentage.
  • Ty Taylor is on the roster, but has no record.

Special Teams – Power-Play.

The Comets are ranked fifth in the AHL on the power-play overall, as they have scored 48 goals in 208 opportunities for a success rate of 23.1%. At home, they have scored 22 power-play goals in 105 chances for a success rate of 21.0% – which ranks thirteenth in the league. The leaders in the power play for Utica are:

  • Points: Chase DeLeo leads with eighteen.
  • Goals: Alexander Holtz leads with six.
  • Assists: Reilly Walsh leads with fourteen.

The Crunch is ranked twenty-sixth in the American Hockey League on the overall power-play, scoring 40 goals in 227 opportunities. On the road, they are twenty-ninth, where they have scored 16 goals in 114 power-play opportunities. The leaders in the power-play for Syracuse are:

  • Points: Alex Barre-Boulet and Charles Hudon lead with eighteen.
  • Goals: Hudon leads with ten. He is also eighteenth in the AHL in power-play goals.
  • Assists: Barre-Boulet leads with fifteen.

Special Teams – Penalty Kill.

The Comets are ranked eleventh in the AHL on the overall penalty kill, allowing 38 goals in the 204 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 81.4%. At home, they have the second-best penalty-killing unit in the league, where they have yielded only 13 goals in the 100 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 87.0%. They have the fifth most shorthanded goals in the league eleven, and with Greer in New Jersey, Frederik Gauthier and Aarne Talvitie lead the team with two “shorties” each.

The Crunch is ranked twenty-sixth in the American Hockey League on the overall penalty kill, as they have allowed 49 goals in the 224 overall times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 78.1%. On the road, they are sixteenth in the league, as they have allowed 23 goals in the 128 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 82.0%. Syracuse is twenty-seventh in the AHL in shorthanded goals scored with four and Anthony Richard has scored two of them to lead the team.

Friday night’s game between the Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), and the television broadcast begins at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV.

The latest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast will feature a doubleheader of guests! First up will be one of the in-game hosts for the Utica Comets Brennan Miller to chat about the Comets and the upcoming playoffs, what goes into preparing all the presentations throughout a game (there’s a lot to it), the upcoming “Roaring 20’s Night” with the Utica Club themed jerseys and much more! Then, the Voice of the Berglund Center for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roy Chambers makes his return to update us on the Rail Yard Dawgs and the SPHL Playoffs!

Help us grow the show by subscribing on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts! Check out https://martysillegalstick.com for articles and everything about Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast!

Utica Comets Call Ups Continue to Shine for the New Jersey Devils

Nico Daws, AJ Greer, Fabian Zetterlund, and Kevin Bahl have all been impressive in their time with the Devils. It could pay huge dividends when they return to the Utica Comets for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Utica Comets have been one of the top teams in the American Hockey League all season long. A major key to their success has been players like Fabian Zetterlund, Kevin Bahl, and Nico Daws have taken huge steps in their development, while AJ Greer has shown that he is ready for the next step as well. All four are being rewarded for their fine seasons in the AHL with time in the National Hockey League.

Utica Comets at Laval Rocket 04-09-2022 Three Observations

Daws was the first to be called up for a significant amount of time out of necessity as injuries have ravaged the Devil’s goaltending corps. This is the twenty-one-year-old’s first season of professional hockey in North America and he was supposed to spend the entire season in Utica with the Comets, but fate determined otherwise. In his twenty-four appearances for New Jersey, he has a record of 10-11-0 with a GAA of 3.13 and a save percentage of 0.893. Although his NHL record is below 0.500, he has wins over Colorado, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and the New York Rangers – all playoff-bound teams. Daws has not seemed overwhelmed at all playing against the best competition in the world which bodes well for his future.

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At twenty-five years old, AJ Greer already has NHL experience under his belt, as prior to this season he had played ta total of thirty-eight games in the National Hockey League between the Colorado Avalanche and the Devils. This season he has been an integral part of the Utica Comets – both as a scorer and a leader. His grit, tenacity, and knack for scoring big goals have earned him a second callup to New Jersey this season, and he is making the most of it. Greer has a goal and an assist with the Devils so far, but the same grit and tenacity that he has shown in Utica are endearing him to the Devil’s coaching staff and fans as well.

Another fan favorite in Utica getting his shot in New Jersey is Fabian Zetterlund. The twenty-two-year-old forward was drafted by the Devils in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He leads the Comets in scoring with twenty-four goals and twenty-eight assists and has been a force to be reckoned with all season. He was recalled to New Jersey with Greer on April 6th for his second stint with the Devils this season. He has four points (one goal and three assists) in his last two games for the Devils this season, and it appears he has made quite an impression on the team that calls the Prudential Center home.

The last of the four Utica Comets getting his chance to show the Devils what he can do is defenseman Kevin Bahl and he too is taking full advantage of his opportunity. Acquired by New Jersey in the 2019 Taylor Hall trade, the twenty-one-year-old defenseman is in his second stint with the Devils, as he played seven games for the club last season as well. In Utica this season, Bahl has used his immense stature (6 feet, 6 inches tall, and 230 pounds) to develop into a physical “stay at home” defenseman who has some offensive upside as well. Like Zetterlund, he scored his first NHL goal on Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes – ironically the team that originally drafted and subsequently traded him.

If the play of Daws, Greer, Zetterlund, and Bahl during their time with the New Jersey Devils is any indication, then Kevin Dineen and the Utica Comet’s coaching staff are doing a tremendous job of developing the team’s young talent. Fortunately for the Comets and their fans, all four will be back in Utica by the time the Calder Cup Playoffs start as the Devils are not going to make the playoffs. Fortunately for the Devils and their fans, these four are an example of the high-end talent that is coming their way via Utica and the future is looking very bright indeed.

The latest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast will feature a doubleheader of guests! First up will be the in-game host for the Utica Comets Brennan Miller! Then, the Voice of the Berglund Center for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roy Chambers makes his return to update us on the Rail Yard Dawgs and the SPHL Playoffs!

The show goes live on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm EDT on the Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast Facebook page and YouTube channel and will be available on all major podcast platforms after that!

If the AHL North Division Playoffs Were to Start Today 04-11-2022

Here is a look at what the matchups would be if the AHL North Division Playoffs started today (April 11th, 2022).

As of April 11th, 2022, the AHL North Division Playoffs are three weeks away from kicking off with the fourth and fifth-seeded teams facing each other in a best of three games series. The winner of this series will face the number one seed and the second and third-place teams will face each other in a best of five series. After that, the winners of those series’ will play in another best of five series for the right to play the winner out of the Atlantic Division.

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With just under three weeks left in the regular season, there is still a lot of hockey left to be played. In fact, there is not a single team that has clinched a playoff spot yet, although the Utica Comets are one point away from doing so. In fact, the North Division features one of the tightest playoff races in the American Hockey League. The Cleveland Monsters are just about eliminated from playoff contention, but the other six teams are very much alive – as illustrated by this playoff primer chart courtesy of the AHL https://theahl.com/22playoffprimer#.YlSL-50rkyM.link

According to the chart, the Rochester Americans are on the outside looking in – for now. This means the first place Utica Comets, second-place Laval Rocket, and third-place Syracuse Crunch would receive first-round byes, while the fourth-place Toronto Marlies and fifth place Belleville Senators would meet in the aforementioned three-game first-round series.

Although they are mired in a four-game winless slump, the Utica Comets are still very likely to win the regular-season division crown. The second through sixth place spots are still way too close to determine who will end up where, but as of April 11th, The Laval Rocket holds down second place and the Syracuse Crunch are in third, meaning if the season ended today, the Utica Comets would face the winner of the Toronto/Belleville series in a best of five, and Laval would face Syracuse in a best of five as well. With three weeks to go before the start of the playoffs, here is a snapshot of how each team in the division stacks up:

First Place: Utica Comets.

  • Record: 39-18-7-1, 86 points, 0.662 points percentage.
  • Games Remaining: 7.
  • Goals For: 225.
  • Goals Against: 182.
  • Power Play: 23.1%.
  • Penalty Kill: 81.4%.

Second Place: Laval Rocket.

  • Record: 34-23-3-2, 73 Points, 0.589 points percentage.
  • Games Remaining: 10.
  • Goals For: 211.
  • Goals Against: 200.
  • Power Play: 17.2%.
  • Penalty Kill: 80.5%.

Utica Comets at Laval Rocket 04-09-2022 Three Observations

Third Place: Syracuse Crunch.

  • Record: 34-24-7-2, 77 points, 0.575 points percentage.
  • Games Remaining: 9.
  • Goals For: 209
  • Goals Against: 210.
  • Power Play: 17.9%.
  • Penalty Kill: 77.9%.

Fourth Place: Toronto Marlies.

  • Record: 34-26-3-1, 72 points, 0.563 points percentage.
  • Games Remaining: 8.
  • Goals For: 215.
  • Goals Against: 214.
  • Power Play: 19.9%.
  • Penalty Kill: 79.1%.

Fifth Place: Belleville Senators.

  • Record: 33-26-4-0, 70 points, 0.556 points percentage.
  • Games Remaining: 9.
  • Goals For: 193.
  • Goals Against: 195.
  • Power Play: 19.7%.
  • Penalty Kill: 83.0%.

Sixth Place: Rochester Americans.

  • Record: 33-26-6-3, 75 points, 0.551 points percentage.
  • Games Remaining: 8.
  • Goals For: 232.
  • Goals Against: 252.
  • Power Play: 23.7%.
  • Penalty Kill: 80.5%.

Seventh Place: Cleveland Monsters.

  • Record: 24-30-8-5, 61 points, 0.455 points percentage.
  • Games Remaining: 9.
  • Goals For: 182.
  • Goals Against: 233.
  • Power Play: 16.6%.
  • Penalty Kill: 78.9%.

Again, there is still a lot of hockey to be played and a lot can change, but as we can see it should be a fight to the finish for the playoff spots in the North Division. Buckle up fans, this is going to be fun!

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Joe Patarino of the Making It Reign Podcast joins the show to talk central NY and AHL hockey! Joe discusses his days playing college hockey for the Morrisville State Mustangs, the Utica Pioneers star he once coached, and how he became an LA Kings fan living in Rochester, NY!
Then we take a look at the AHL Western Conference, specifically the Pacific Division! We discuss the Ontario Reign, Stockton Heat, a team that Comets fans are familiar with – the Abbotsford Canucks, who are the potential powerhouses from the West that could make the Calder Cup Final, why AHL fans in the East should pay attention to the Western Conference, we compare the Eastern and Western Conference, and much more!
We end the show discussing the week that was for the Utica Comets, the week ahead, their magic number, who are the next Comets that could get a look in New Jersey, and finally a quick update on the SPHL! Subscribe to both Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast and Making It Reign (under the Hockey Royalty banner) on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms! Be sure to check https://martysillegalstick.com for new daily Mohawk Valley hockey content!

Utica Comets at Laval Rocket 04-09-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets dropped their fourth consecutive game on Saturday afternoon, as they fell to the Laval Rocket by a score of 5-3.

The Utica Comets push to clinch a playoff spot has stalled. They entered Saturday afternoon’s game at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec needing one point to clinch that playoff spot. They left still needing that point.

The way they opened Saturday’s game, it looked like they would leave the Province of Quebec as the second team from the Eastern Conference to be assured of a spot in the postseason tournament. Alexander Holtz opened the scoring at the 7:23 mark of the first period when he took a nifty backhand pass from Tyce Thompson and redirected a shot past Laval goaltender Cayden Primeau to give the Comets a 1-0 lead. Utica then picked up two more goals in less than two minutes after the Holtz goal when Ryan Schmelzer tipped a Holtz shot past Primeau and then Nolan Foote blasted a one-timer off a pass from Michael Vukojevic into the Laval net to get the visitors off and running.

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Although the Comets owned the first ten minutes of the opening period, the last ten minutes of the frame belonged to the Rocket. They first responded with a goal by Joel Teasdale after former Comet Nate Schnarr created a turnover in the Utica zone and got the puck to Teasdale who did the rest. Just over two minutes later, Schnarr won a faceoff in the left circle of the Utica zone to Kevin Roy who cranked a one-timer past Comnet’s goaltender Akira Schmid to get the Rocket within one goal. The home team got yet another goal with 1:34 left in the first period when Alex Belzile put a loose puck in the Utica crease into an open net to tie the game at three heading into the first intermission.

Utica Comets at Laval Rocket Game Preview 04-09-2022

After a free-wheeling first period, the scoring came to a halt in the second – even though the Comets poured seventeen shots in on Primeau. The Rocket took the lead at 4:53 of the third period when Rafael Harvey-Pinard sent a stretch pass to Jean-Sebastien Dea, who got behind the Utica defense and beat Schmid with a wrist shot into the upper right corner of the net from the left circle. The Comets got a boost when they killed off a five-on-three Laval power play with eight and half minutes left, but they could not take advantage on the scoreboard. The Rocket salted the game away with forty-eight seconds left when Dea scored into an empty Utica net for his second goal of the game and sealed the victory for his team. With the win, the Rocket earned a regular-season series split with the Comets, with each team winning three games.

With that said, here are my three observations from the game:

The Comets can still clinch – with help.

The Utica Comets do not play again until Friday night, April 15th against Syracuse, so they will have to wait for almost a week to try to get that one point they need to clinch a playoff spot themselves. They could have still clinched on Saturday night had the Rochester Americans lost to the Belleville Senators, but that did not happen. Utica can still clinch a playoff spot on Sunday if the Toronto Marlies lose to the Grand Rapids Griffins in regulation as the tweet below indicates. That game begins at 4:00 pm EDT.

An old friend haunts his old team.

Nate Schnarr was traded to the Montreal Canadiens by the New Jersey Devils for Andrew Hammond at the American Hockey League trade deadline (March 28th, 2022). The deal was made because the Devils desperately needed some goaltending depth, and although he did not play a game for New Jersey, Schnarr is one of those “sparkplug” types of players that is sorely missed in Utica.

Schnarr’s talents were on full display Saturday afternoon against his old team, as he picked up the primary assists on Laval’s first two goals to help spark their comeback. He was also physically involved and was a +3 for the game. Again, it is understood why New Jersey had to make the deal, but Nate Schnarr will certainly be an asset for the Rocket going forward.

The upcoming break could do the Comets some good.

The Utica Comets have been going through some roster upheaval as a result of injuries to both the New Jersey Devils and themselves. Fabian Zetterlund, AJ Greer, and Kevin Bahl are with the Devils on an extended road trip and Frederik Gauthier missed his third straight game on Saturday (ironically in his hometown of Laval, Quebec) while he deals with an injury. They are 4-5-1-0 over their past ten games with eight of those coming in a span of just two weeks.

They now have five days off from gameplay, and simply put, the break could be just what they needed. The trio of Comets that is with New Jersey right now likely will not be back by Friday, but with the extra rest, Frederik Gauthier could be. Their game on Friday against Syracuse is at home, so they now have the opportunity to rest, perhaps heal some nagging injuries, and most of all get a mental reset. Overall, the Utica Comets are a young team, and some of their players have yet to experience the grind of a full AHL season. A chance to “recharge the batteries” could be just what the doctor ordered.

Utica Comets at Laval Rocket Game Preview 04-09-2022

The Utica Comets will see an old friend when they visit Place Bell in Laval, Quebec to face the Rocket on Saturday afternoon?

The Utica Comets (39-17-7-1, 86 points, 0.672 points percentage, 1st place in the Eastern Conference) need one point to clinch a playoff spot and eight points to take the regular-season North Division crown. The Laval Rocket (33-23-3-2, 71 points, 0.582 points percentage, 2nd place in the North Division) need to keep winning to close in on a playoff spot of their own and maintain any kind of hope of catching the Comets. The two teams will meet for the sixth and final time on Saturday afternoon with the Comets holding a three to two series lead thus far this season.

Utica Comets at Belleville Senators 04-08-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets and their fans will see a familiar face wearing the bleu, blanc, et rouge of the Laval Rocket as Nate Schnarr will face his former team for the first time. Schnarr was traded to the Montreal Canadiens by the New Jersey Devils on March 28th for goaltender Andrew Hammond. With friends becoming foes for a couple of hours, here is the tale of the tape for the Comets vs Rocket matchup that has playoff implications.

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Offense.

The Utica Comets are third in the AHL in overall goals scored with 222. On the rank, they rank fifth in the league where they have scored 109. With Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer currently in the NHL, here are the leading scorers for the Comets:

  • Chase DeLeo: 16 goals and 33 assists = 49 points. (he is 17th in the AHL in assists)
  • Alexander Holtz: 23 goals and 22 assists = 45 points.
  • Reilly Walsh: 7 goals and 30 assists = 37 points.
  • Frederik Gauthier: 8 goals and 24 assists = 32 points.
  • Robbie Russo: 3 goals and 28 assists = 31 points.

Alexander Holtz leads the current Utica team in shots with 146, and Graeme Clarke leads in game-winning goals with three.

The Rocket is tenth in the American Hockey League in overall goals scored with 206. At home, they have scored 124 goals which rank them third in the league. With Jesse Ylonen currently with the Montreal Canadiens, here are the Rocket leading scorers:

  • Rafael Harvey-Pinard: 18 goals and 27 assists = 45 points.
  • Jean-Sebastien Dea: 20 goals and 19 assists = 39 points.
  • Xavier Ouellet: 6 goals and 25 assists = 31 points.
  • Kevin Roy: 11 goals and 18 assists = 29 points.
  • Nate Schnarr: 14 goals and 14 assists = 28 points.

Danick Martel leads Laval in shots with 150, and Dea leads the team in game-winning goals with six.

Post-game brawl between the Laval Rocket and Utica Comets 02-04-2022.

Defense/Goaltending.

Utica is sixth in the AHL in overall goals allowed, yielding 177 so far this season. On the road, they have given up 92 goals, which is ninth in the league. The Comets goaltending tandem is made up of:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 20-7-4 with a GAA of 2.48, 0.915 save percentage, and two shutouts. He ranks 7th in the AHL in wins, 12th in GAA, and 14th in both save percentage and shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-7-2 with a GAA of 3.33, and a 0.890 save percentage.

Laval is eighteenth in the AHL in overall goals allowed, yielding 197. At home, they have given up 87 goals, which ranks twelfth in the league. The Rocket goaltending tandem is made up of:

  • Cayden Primeau has a record of 14-10-3 with a GAA of 2.86, a 0.912 save percentage, and two shutouts. He ranks 11th in the AHL in shutouts and 17th in save percentage.
  • Kevin Poulin has a record of 14-7-1 with a GAA of 2.32, a 0.923 save percentage, and one shutout. He ranks 5th in the AHL in both GAA and save percentage and 18th in shutouts.

Special Teams/Power Play.

The Comets are fourth in the league overall on the power play, scoring 47 goals in 204 opportunities for a success rate of 23.0%. They are also fourth in the AHL on the road on the power play, scoring 25 goals in 99 opportunities for a success rate of 25.3%. With Zetterlund unavailable, Alexander Holtz leads the team in power-play goals with six. Chase DeLeo, Reilly Walsh, and Robbie Russo all lead in power-play assists with thirteen, while DeLeo leads in overall power-play points with eighteen.

The Rocket has 38 power-play goals in 217 overall opportunities for a success rate of 17.5% – which ranks twenty-sixth in the AHL. They are better on the power play at home, where they have scored 25 goals in 111 chances for a success rate of 22.5%, ranking them eighth in the league. Rafael Harvey-Pinard leads the team in power-play goals with five, Xavier Ouellet leads in power-play assists with eleven, while both Ouellet and Jean-Sebastien Dea lead in overall power-play points with fourteen each.

Special Teams/Penalty Kill.

The Comets are fifteenth in the AHL on the overall penalty kill, allowing 38 goals in the 200 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 81.0%. On the road, they are twenty-seventh in the league, allowing 25 goals in the 100 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 75.0%. They have scored eleven shorthanded goals this season, which is the fourth most in the American Hockey League. With AJ Greer in New Jersey, Aarne Talvitie and Frederik Gauthier lead the team in shorthanded goals with two each.

The Rocket is sixteenth in the league on the overall penalty kill, allowing 41 goals in the 211 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 80.6%. At home, they have 17 goals in the 108 times they have been shorthanded which ranks seventh in the AHL. Laval has scored twelve shorthanded goals so far this season which is the third-most in the league. They are led by Brandon Gignac, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, and Gabriel Bourque who have three each.

Saturday afternoons game is scheduled to start at 4:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), and the television broadcast begins at 4:00 pm on AHLTV.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Joe Patarino of the Making It Reign Podcast joins the show to talk central NY and AHL hockey! Joe discusses his days playing college hockey for the Morrisville State Mustangs, the Utica Pioneers star he once coached, and how he became an LA Kings fan living in Rochester, NY!

Then we take a look at the AHL Western Conference, specifically the Pacific Division! We discuss the Ontario Reign, Stockton Heat, a team that Comets fans are familiar with – the Abbotsford Canucks, who are the potential powerhouses from the West that could make the Calder Cup Final, why AHL fans in the East should pay attention to the Western Conference, we compare the Eastern and Western Conference, and much more!

We end the show discussing the week that was for the Utica Comets, the week ahead, their magic number, who are the next Comets that could get a look in New Jersey, and finally a quick update on the SPHL! Subscribe to both Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast and Making It Reign (under the Hockey Royalty banner) on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms! Be sure to check https://martysillegalstick.com for new daily Mohawk Valley hockey content!

Utica Comets at Belleville Senators 04-08-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot on Friday night when they lost to the Belleville Senators in regulation.

The Utica Comets will clinch a spot in the 2022 AHL Playoffs, the question is – when?

The opportunity was there for the taking on Friday night when they faced the Belleville Senators in Belleville, Ontario. With a magic number of two, if Utica won the game they were in. Unfortunately for the Comets and their fans, the exact opposite happened, as the Senators skated away with a 4-1 victory and in the process vaulted themselves into fourth place in the North Division.

The Senators opened the game by scoring early and often. The first goal came just over two minutes after the opening faceoff when a shot from the left sideboards of the Comets zone was redirected by Andrew Agozzino past Utica goaltender Mareks Mitens and in to give Belleville an early 1-0 lead. The Senators added another goal just twenty-one seconds later when Maxence Guenette snapped a shot front the blue line that eluded what appeared to be a screened Mitens and into the back of the net. Mitens tough start continued when he knocked down an Egor Sokolov shot but left a loose puck in his crease that Jake Lucchini was able to jam in to give the home team its third goal in less than five minutes.

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Mitens’ night came to an end after the Lucchini goal as Comets coach Kevin Dineen replaced him with Akira Schmid. Despite the goaltender change, the Belleville barrage continued resulting in their fourth goal of the game when, while on the power play Jonathan Aspirot stepped in from the point, took a pass from Logan Shaw, and beat Schmid with a wrist shot to give the Senators a 4-0 lead they would take into the first intermission.

AJ Greer and Fabian Zetterlund Make an Impact for the NJ Devils

The Comets put in a much better effort in the second period but were only able to get one puck past Belleville goaltender Filip Gustavsson. That goal came at the 12:41 mark when an errant turnover behind the Senator’s net was scooped up by an opportunistic Tyler Irvine who snuck a shot past Gustavsson to get Utica within three. The Irvine goal would prove to be the last one of the game from either team, as, despite a continued push by the visitors through the rest of the game, the home team won the game and greatly helped themselves in their push to secure a playoff spot.

With Friday night’s game in the books, here are three observations from the contest:

The Comets Must Overcome the Loss of Key Players

Going into their game against the Senators, the Comets knew they would be missing Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer, as they would be traveling with the New Jersey Devils. They also knew they would be without Frederik Gauthier, who has missed the team’s previous two games due to injury. Friday afternoon the Devils announced they had recalled defenseman Kevin Bahl and that he too would be joining the team in Dallas.

That’s four key players that are missing from the lineup, and at least three will be gone for at least the near future. The good news is the Comets got defenseman Jeremy Groleau back on Friday night to help fill the departure of Bahl, but not having Zetterlund, Greer, and Gauthier has left gaping holes in the lineup that are going to be very tough to fill.

Even so, call-ups are a part of life in the AHL and injuries happen to every team at every level. The Comets are in no danger of missing the playoffs, but they must overcome these roster obstacles to start building momentum for the playoffs which begin in just over three weeks.

The Rest of the North Division is Heating Up.

The Comets have gone 4-4-1-1 in their last ten games and 8-7-1-1 since the beginning of March. While they are still getting points, the rest of the division (except Cleveland) has been better over their last ten games – as Laval, Syracuse, Toronto, Belleville, and Rochester have all picked up more points over this span than the Comets. Although It is unlikely the Rocket will catch Utica for the North Division title, it still shows that at this juncture the rest of the playoff contenders in the division have more momentum than the Comets.

Keep in mind, that Utica will get a first-round bye and will probably play the winner of the fourth and fifth seed preliminary matchup. This means they will play a team that already has some built-in momentum so they will want to be playing at an optimum level when the playoffs start. The good news is the Comets will have Zetterlund, Greer, Gauthier, Bahl, and Nico Daws all back by the start of the playoffs.

Magic Numbers.

Despite the loss to Belleville, Laval defeated Rochester in overtime on Friday night, so the magic number for the Comets to clinch a playoff spot is down to one. To clinch the North Division crown, their magic number is now eight. The team that is in second place is the Laval Rocket, who is also their opponent on Saturday afternoon. Utica can take a big step forward in determining their playoff seeding with a win against Laval.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Joe Patarino of the Making It Reign Podcast joins the show to talk central NY and AHL hockey! Joe discusses his days playing college hockey for the Morrisville State Mustangs, the Utica Pioneers star he once coached, and how he became an LA Kings fan living in Rochester, NY!

Then we take a look at the AHL Western Conference, specifically the Pacific Division! We discuss the Ontario Reign, Stockton Heat, a team that Comets fans are familiar with – the Abbotsford Canucks, who are the potential powerhouses from the West that could make the Calder Cup Final, why AHL fans in the East should pay attention to the Western Conference, we compare the Eastern and Western Conference, and much more!

We end the show discussing the week that was for the Utica Comets, the week ahead, their magic number, who are the next Comets that could get a look in New Jersey, and finally a quick update on the SPHL! Subscribe to both Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast and Making It Reign (under the Hockey Royalty banner) on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms! Be sure to check https://martysillegalstick.com for new daily Mohawk Valley hockey content!

Utica Comets at Belleville Senators Game Preview 04-08-2022

For the Utica Comets it’s very simple, if they win they’re in – the AHL Playoffs that is.

The Utica Comets open a two-game Canadian road trip on Friday night when they visit the CAA Arena in Belleville, Ontario to take on the Belleville Senators. The Comets enter the game in first place in the entire Eastern Conference with a record of 39-16-7-1, 86 points, 0.683 points percentage. The Senators are clinging to the fifth and final playoff spot in the North Division with a record of 32-25-4-0, 68 points, 0.557 points percentage. The Comets have won three of the four games the teams have played this season but dropped a 4-3 decision in overtime to the Senators two nights ago at the Adirondack Bank Center (for more on that game, please click here: Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators 04-06-2022 Three Observations).

For the Comets, Friday night’s game is about more than revenge for their defeat on Wednesday night. If they win in regulation, they will become the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff spot and take a big step toward securing the North Division crown as well. Including Friday night, Utica has nine games remaining in their regular-season schedule.

With a playoff spot on the line, here is the “tale of the tape” for Friday night’s Utica Comets at Belleville Senators game.

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Offense.

The Comets are third overall in the AHL in total goals scored with 221. On the road, they are sixth in the American Hockey League with 108 goals scored. Utica’s top two leading scorers, Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer were recalled to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday and Frederik Gauthier has been out with an injury as well (although there is hope Gauthier could return during this trip), so Utica will need to use a “next man up” mentality to produce offense. With Zetterlund and Greer gone for now, here are the leading scorers for the Comets:

  • Chase DeLeo: 16 goals and 33 assists = 49 points (he is 17th in the AHL in assists).
  • Alexander Holtz: 23 goals and 22 assists = 45 points.
  • Reilly Walsh: 7 goals and 30 assists = 37 points.
  • Frederik Gauthier: 8 goals and 24 assists = 32 points.
  • 3 goals and 28 assists = 31 points.

If Gauthier doesn’t play, Nolan Foote (12 goals and 17 assists = 29 points). enters the list. With Zetterlund in New Jersey, Alexander Holtz leads the team in shots and Graeme Clarke leads in game-winning goals with three.

AJ Greer and Fabian Zetterlund Make an Impact for the NJ Devils

The Senators are currently eighteenth in the AHL in total goals scored with 187. At home, they have scored 90 goals – which ranks twenty-sixth in the league. The leading scorers for Belleville are as follows:

  • Jake Lucchini: 19 goals and 24 assists = 43 points.
  • Egor Sokolov: 18 goals and 24 assists = 42 points.
  • Zach Senyshyn: 19 goals and 14 assists = 33 points.
  • Andrew Agozzino: 16 goals and 16 assists = 32 points.
  • Roby Jarventie: 11 goals and 21 assists = 32 points.

Lucchini leads the team in shots with 144 closely followed by Sokolov and Agozzino who have 142 each. Senyshyn leads the Senators in game-winning goals with five.

Defense and Goaltending.

Utica is sixth in the AHL in total goals allowed, having yielded 173. On the road, they have allowed 88 goals which rank fifth in the league. The Comets goaltending tandem is made up of:

  • Akira Schmid has a record 20-7-4 with a GAA of 2.52, a 0.914 save percentage, and two shutouts. He ranks 7th in the AHL in wins, 13th in GAA, 15th in save percentage and 14th in shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record of 7-6-2 with a GAA of 3.15 and a save percentage of 0.895.

Belleville has allowed a total of 188 goals, which ranks fourteenth in the league. At home, they are thirteenth in the AHL, where they have allowed 95 goals. The Senators have three goaltenders on their roster and are as follows:

  • Filip Gustavsson has a record of 6-4-1 with a GAA of 2.57, a save percentage of 0.910, and one shutout.
  • Kevin Mandolese has a record of 9-5-0 with a GAA of 3.12 and a save percentage of 0.901.
  • Michael McNiven has a record of 4-4-2 with a GAA of 4.01, a 0.871 save percentage, and one shutout.
Subscribe to the Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast YouTube channel for videos like this and every episode of the show!

Special Teams.

The Comets are fourth overall in the American Hockey League on the power-play, scoring 47 goals in 201 overall opportunities for a success rate of 23.4%. On the road, they have scored 25 power-play goals in 96 opportunities for a success rate of 26.0% – which ranks second in the league. With Zetterlund in New Jersey, Alexander Holtz leads the Comets in power-play goals with six followed closely by Chase DeLeo who has five. DeLeo, Reilly Walsh, and Robbie Russo lead the team in power-play assists with thirteen each. DeLeo also leads the Comets in overall power-play points with eighteen.

The Senators are sixteenth overall in the AHL on the power-play, scoring 46 goals in 234 opportunities for a success rate of 19.7%. At home, they have scored 22 power-play goals in 119 opportunities for a success rate of 18.5% – which ranks twenty-first in the league. Lassi Thomson and Jake Lucchini lead the club in power-play goals with six each and Zac Leslie leads in power-play assists with eleven. Roby Jarventie and Egor Sokolov lead Belleville in overall power-play points with thirteen.

Utica ranks fourteenth in the league on the overall penalty kill, allowing 37 goals in 199 times shorthanded for a success rate of 81.4%. On the road they have allowed 24 goals in the 99 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 75.8% – which ranks twenty-seventh in the AHL. The Comets are third overall in the American Hockey League in shorthanded goals with eleven. With AJ Greer in New Jersey, Frederik Gauthier and Aarne Talvitie lead the Comets in shorthanded goals with two each.

Belleville is the third-best overall penalty-killing team in the league, yielding 41 goals in the 255 overall times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 83.9%. At home, they are sixth in the AHL on the penalty kill, allowing 19 goals in the 120 times they have been shorthanded. The Senators have scored nine shorthanded goals this season, which puts them seventh overall. Cole Reinhardt leads the team in shorthanded goals with three – which also ranks sixteenth overall in the AHL.

Friday night’s game is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 on AHLTV.


In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Joe Patarino of the Making It Reign Podcast joins the show to talk central NY and AHL hockey! Joe discusses his days playing college hockey for the Morrisville State Mustangs, the Utica Pioneers star he once coached, and how he became an LA Kings fan living in Rochester, NY!

Then we take a look at the AHL Western Conference, specifically the Pacific Division! We discuss the Ontario Reign, Stockton Heat, a team that Comets fans are familiar with – the Abbotsford Canucks, who are the potential powerhouses from the West that could make the Calder Cup Final, why AHL fans in the East should pay attention to the Western Conference, we compare the Eastern and Western Conference, and much more!

We end the show discussing the week that was for the Utica Comets, the week ahead, their magic number, who are the next Comets that could get a look in New Jersey, and finally a quick update on the SPHL!

Subscribe to both Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast and Making It Reign (under the Hockey Royalty banner) on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms! Be sure to check https://martysillegalstick.com for new daily Mohawk Valley hockey content!

AJ Greer and Fabian Zetterlund Make an Impact for the NJ Devils

The NJ Devils recalled forwards AJ Greer and Fabian Zetterlund from the Utica Comets on Wednesday, and they made an impact for the Devils the next night.

The final score did not turn out the way the NJ Devils wanted it to Thursday night, as they lost to the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 7-4 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The two newest Devils, AJ Greer, and Fabian Zetterlund were a bright spot, however, as both players made an impact.

It is expected that some of the Utica Comets will “get a look” with the NJ Devils during the month of April, as the Devils are not going to make the playoffs and the final weeks of their season will be a great opportunity to give a few Comets some well deserved NHL time. That plan was accelerated when Jack Hughes was lost for the season, plus Miles Wood, Jimmy Vesey, and Nathan Bastian suffered injuries that would cause them to miss time as well. The first beneficiaries of the sudden openings in the New Jersey lineup are Greer and Zetterlund.

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This is far from Greer’s first time in the NHL, as he had already played five games for the Devils this season prior to Thursday night, and has now played a total of forty-four games in the league between the Devils and the Colorado Avalanche. It was the Avalanche that drafted the twenty-five-year-old left wing in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In his NHL games, he has a total of seven points and fifty-four PIM.

On Thursday night, Greer was a force to be reckoned with for the Devils. He scored a goal, and registered four shots on goal, two hits, and one blocked shot in 12:08 of ice time as well. The stat line Greer put up against the Canadiens, is one Utica Comets fans have become quite familiar with – as he has been a huge part of the Devil’s AHL affiliate’s success this season.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators 04-06-2022 Three Observations

Thursday night was not the first time Fabian Zetterlund played for the Devils this season either, as he played three games for the club in November. Like Greer, Zetterlund is also a major factor in the Comet’s success this season and was also very noticeable for the Devils against Montreal. Although he did not register a point, Utica’s leading scorer still recorded four shots, two hits, and two blocked shots in 15:01 of ice time. The twenty-two-year-old even received 1:59 of power play time in the game, which was the third most among New Jersey forwards for the night. The future looks bright for the Devil’s 2017 third-round draft pick.

The NJ Devils head out to the road for nearly two weeks starting Saturday afternoon with a game in Dallas against the Stars. Zetterlund and Greer are still with the team, with a fluid injury situation in New Jersey and the team starting a long road trip, it is unclear at this point who or when the callup from Utica will be.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators 04-06-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets took on the Belleville Senators at the Adirondack Bank Center on Martin Brodeur night with playoff implications on the line.

There was a buzz in the air on Wednesday night when the Utica Comets faced the Belleville Senators. The Comets entered the game needing five points to clinch a playoff spot (and only nine for the division title), and there was a certain legendary Hall of Fame goaltender in the building that was to be honored throughout the game. It also helped the home team was playing a team they had not lost to all season long, as the Comets defeated the Senators in all three of their previous meetings.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators Game Preview 04-06-2022

When the puck dropped to open the game, the electricity in the building continued. It took less than five minutes for a fight to break out, as Utica’s Pat McGrath and Belleville’s Scott Sabourin dropped the gloves at the 3:11 mark. It was a precursor of things to come, as the Senators employed a physical and aggressive forecheck against the Comets all game long. After Utica took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Chase DeLeo, Belleville tied the score with less than four minutes left in the frame on a tally by Egor Sokolov. The first period ended in a 1-1 tie, but Utica goaltender Akira Schmid saw a lot of action, as the visitors outshot the home team by a margin of 15-8.

Pat McGrath of the Utica Comets and Scott Sabourin of the Belleville Senators drop the gloves. Video credit: Scott Kinville.

Belleville took the lead early in the second period when Roby Jarventie sent a centering pass from behind the Utica goal line to Logan Shaw who beat Schmid from the slot. Utica answered back when Michael Vukojevic sent a shot from the left point that was redirected by Nolan Foote past Senators goaltender Filip Gustavsson to tie the game. It wouldn’t last as with less than minutes to go in the second period, the Senators took the lead yet again on another goal from the slot, this time by Colby Williams to give Belleville a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.

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With their backs against the wall, the Comets were able to break through and tie the game in the third period. Chase DeLeo took control of the puck behind the Belleville net and found Alexander Holtz who beat Gustavsson with a shot from about fifteen feet in front of the net. The 3-3 score would hold through the end of the period, and an already buzzing crowd got even more excited when the Comets opened the overtime period on a two-minute power play. To the crowd’s chagrin, the home team could not take advantage, and after killing the penalty Belleville got a goal from Logan Shaw with 1:33 left to win the game and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Now that the game is in the books, here are three observations from a big night at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Utica loves Martin Brodeur.

It’s safe to say that Martin Brodeur is one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. Before going on to win three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies with the New Jersey Devils, he played with the Utica Devils of the AHL during the 1992-93 season. The fans did not forget, and the organization rolled out the red carpet for “Martin Brodeur Night” as every fan received a Brodeur bobblehead, the legend himself dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff, and his career and accomplishments were highlighted all night long. Even though the end result was not what the team and their fans wanted, it was still a special night for all involved.

Martin Brodeur drops the puck for the ceremonial opening face off for Wednesday night’s game. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

Next man up.

The New Jersey Devils have been hit with a wave of injuries yet again, and it affects the Utica Comets. Already missing Frederik Gauthier and Jeremy Groleau due to injuries, it was announced about two hours prior to the start of Wednesday night’s game that Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer had been recalled to New Jersey. How long they will be there remains to be seen (on Saturday the Devils begin a ten-day road trip) but it is certainly a blow to the Comets for the immediate future, as Zetterlund and Greer are numbers one and two on the team’s scoring list and are major sparkplugs both on and off the ice.

A Look at the AHL Central Division

This is not however entirely surprising as NHL callups from Utica were expected in the month of April anyways, but for the Comets to have a strong finish to the regular season, it will have to be a “next man up” mentality going forward. The good news is the Comets got Nolan Foote back on Wednesday night after missing ten games with an injury and made an immediate impact – recording a goal and an assist. Two key players that have been in a slump as of late also got on the scoresheet against Belleville. Alexander Holtz, who had scored one goal in his ten games prior to Wednesday night, scored his twenty-third goal of the season. Reilly Walsh, the young defenseman who is such a big part of Utica’s transition game and power play had just one goal and one assist in his past fifteen games going into Wednesday night. He recorded a power-play assist in this game which will hopefully for Utica be the start of many more. With the current roster upheaval, the Comets will need Holtz and Walsh now more than ever.

The Comet’s opponents will continue to be desperate.

The Belleville Senators came into Wednesday night’s game in sixth place in the North Division, and just barely out of a playoff spot. They played an aggressive game you would expect from a team with desperate urgency to make the playoffs and were rewarded with a victory for their efforts. The Comets can expect to see this for the rest of the season.

A Look at the AHL Pacific Division

With a magic number of two and nine games remaining, the Utica Comets are going to make the playoffs (their magic number went down three points as a result of other games). The rest of the North Division, however, is still a very tight battle for the remaining four playoff births, and eight of Utica’s remaining nine games are against North Division opponents. Everyone in the division still has a chance to get into the playoffs, and the Comets can expect a desperate effort from all of their opponents going forward as they did from the Senators on Wednesday night.

The Comets could possibly clinch a playoff spot this weekend, as they play at Belleville on Friday night, and at a surging Laval Rocket on Saturday afternoon. Radio coverage will be on 94.9 K-Rock, and the television broadcasts will be on AHLTV. For the latest updates on the Utica Comet’s magic numbers please visit the daily playoff primer at https://theahl.com.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Joe Patarino of the Making It Reign Podcast joins the show to talk central NY and AHL hockey! Joe discusses his days playing college hockey for the Morrisville State Mustangs, the Utica Pioneers star he once coached, and how he became an LA Kings fan living in Rochester, NY!
Then we take a look at the AHL Western Conference, specifically the Pacific Division! We discuss the Ontario Reign, Stockton Heat, a team that Comets fans are familiar with – the Abbotsford Canucks, who are the potential powerhouses from the West that could make the Calder Cup Final, why AHL fans in the East should pay attention to the Western Conference, we compare the Eastern and Western Conference, and much more!
We end the show discussing the week that was for the Utica Comets, the week ahead, their magic number, who are the next Comets that could get a look in New Jersey, and finally a quick update on the SPHL! Subscribe to both Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast and Making It Reign (under the Hockey Royalty banner) on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms! Be sure to check https://martysillegalstick.com for new daily Mohawk Valley hockey content!
Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast: By the Fans, For the Fans.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators Game Preview 04-06-2022

The Utica Comets can take a huge step towards securing a playoff spot on Wednesday night when they take on the Belleville Senators at home in front of an NHL goaltending legend.

The Utica Comets (39-16-6-1, 85 points, 0.685 points percentage, 1st place in the Eastern Conference) are pulling out all the stops on Wednesday night. With their magic number at five to secure a playoff spot, they face the team that sits in sixth place in the North Division and affects that number the most – the Belleville Senators (31-25-4-0, 66 points, 0.550 points percentage). In the crowd will be a man who knows a little something about playoff success, as three-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur returns to Utica for the first time since he played for the Utica Devils in 1993.

With games against the Senators at home on Wednesday night and at Belleville on Friday night; as well as a Saturday afternoon game against the Laval Rocket, the Comets are in a fantastic position to not only secure a playoff birth but also make huge strides toward securing the North Division title as well. They may have to do it without some of their regulars, as the New Jersey Devils have suffered yet another rash of injuries. They have lost Jack Hughes for the season, Nathan Bastian is considered to be day-to-day, while Jimmy Vesey and Yegor Sharangovich suffering injuries during Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers as well. It was expected that a few Comets players would “get a look” in New Jersey at some point in April, time will tell if these injuries accelerate the process.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at the “tale of the tape” for Wednesday night’s game between the Belleville Senators and Utica Comets.

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Offense

The Utica Comets are third overall in the American Hockey League in total goals scored with 218. At home, they have scored 108 goals, which ranks sixth in the AHL. Leading the Comets in scoring are:

  1. Fabian Zetterlund: 24 goals and 28 assists = 52 points. He is 16th in the AHL in goals and 13th in shots.
  2. AJ Greer: 22 goals and 28 assists = 50 points.
  3. Chase DeLeo: 15 goals and 32 assists = 47 points.
  4. Alexander Holtz: 22 goals and 22 assists = 44 points. He is 4th among AHL rookies in goals, 9th in points, 10th in shots, and 16th in assists.
  5. Reilly Walsh: 7 goals and 29 assists = 36 points. He is 10th in points and assists among AHL defensemen.

Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in shots with 175 and game-winning goals with seven. Among AHL leaders, he is thirteenth in shots and fourth in game-winning goals.

A Look at the AHL Central Division

The Belleville Senators are twentieth in the American Hockey League in total goals scored with 183. On the road, they have scored 93 goals, which is the twelfth most in the league. The Senators leading scorers are:

  1. Jake Lucchini: 19 goals and 23 assists = 43 points.
  2. Egor Sokolov: 17 goals and 24 assists = 41 points.
  3. Zach Senyshyn: 19 goals and 14 assists = 33 points.
  4. Andrew Agozzino: 16 goals and 16 assists = 32 points.
  5. Roby Jarventie: 11 goals and 20 assists = 31 points.

Lucchini leads the Senators in shots with 143 followed closely by Agozzino with 139. Senyshyn leads the team in game-winning goals with five.

Defense/Goaltending

The Comets are sixth in the AHL in total goals allowed, yielding 169 so far this season. At home, they are fifth in the league, where they have allowed 81 goals. The Utica goaltending tandem is made up of:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 20-7-3 with a GAA of 2.48, a 0.915 save percentage, and two shutouts. He 7th in the AHL in wins, 11th in wins, and 13th in both save percentage and shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record 7-6-2 with a GAA of 3.15 and a 0.895 save percentage.

Defensemen Tyler Wotherspoon is third in the American Hockey League in +/- with a +25.

A Look at the AHL Pacific Division

The Senators have allowed a total of 185 goals, which is fourteenth in the American Hockey League. On the road, they have yielded 92 goals – which ranks eleventh. With Mads Sogaard currently with the Ottawa Senators, the Belleville goaltenders are:

  • Filip Gustavsson has a record of 5-4-1, with a GAA of 2.54, 0.911 save percentage, and one shutout.
  • Kevin Mandolese has a record of 9-5-0 with a GAA of 3.12 and a 0.901 save percentage.
  • Michael McNiven has a record of 4-4-2 with a GAA of 4.01, 0.871 save percentage, and one shutout.

Power Play

With their prolific offense, it’s no surprise the Utica Comets are fourth overall in the league on the power play, converting 46 of 196 opportunities for a success rate of 23.5%. At home, they are thirteenth in the AHL on the power play, scoring 21 goals in 100 chances for a success rate of 21%. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in power play goals with eight, followed by Alexander Holtz with six and AJ Greer with five. Robbie Russo and Chase DeLeo leads the Comets in assists on the power play with thirteen followed closely by Reilly Walsh with twelve. Zetterlund and DeLeo lead in overall power play points with seventeen each.

Belleville ranks twentieth in the AHL on the power play, converting 45 of 232 overall chances for a success rate of 19.4%. On the road they are eleventh overall, where they have scored 23 goals on 113 opportunities for a success rate of 20.4%. Lassi Thomson and Jake Lucchini lead the Senators in power play goals with six each, followed closely by Egor Sokolov, Mark Kastelic, and Zach Senyshyn with five each. Zac Leslie leads the team in power play assists with eleven, followed by Roby Jaeventie with nine, and Sokolov with eight. Sokolov leads the Senators in overall power play points with thirteen, followed closely by Leslie and Jarventie with twelve each.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, Joe Patarino of the Making It Reign Podcast joins the show to talk central NY and AHL hockey! Joe discusses his days playing college hockey for the Morrisville State Mustangs, the Utica Pioneers star he once coached, and how he became an LA Kings fan living in Rochester, NY!
Then we take a look at the AHL Western Conference, specifically the Pacific Division! We discuss the Ontario Reign, Stockton Heat, a team that Comets fans are familiar with – the Abbotsford Canucks, who are the potential powerhouses from the West that could make the Calder Cup Final, why AHL fans in the East should pay attention to the Western Conference, we compare the Eastern and Western Conference, and much more! We end the show discussing the week that was for the Utica Comets, the week ahead, their magic number, who are the next Comets that could get a look in New Jersey, and finally a quick update on the SPHL!

Penalty Kill

Utica is tenth overall in the AHL on the penalty kill, yielding 36 goals in the 197 overall times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 81.7%. At home, they have been dominant, allowing only 12 goals in the 98 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 87.8% – which is the second best in the league. They have also scored eleven shorthanded goals, which is the third most in the AHL. AJ Greer leads the team in shorthanded goals scored with four.

Belleville has been outstanding on the penalty kill this season, as they have allowed only 40 goals in the 250 overall times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 84.0% – ranking them third in the league. On the road, they are sixth in the AHL – yielding 21 goals in the 130 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 83.8%. The Senators have also scored nine shorthanded goals this season, led by Cole Reinhardt who has three of them.

Wednesday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), while the television broadcast begins at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV.

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