It was one to forget for the Utica Comets as they drop a 4-1 decision to the Bridgeport Islanders at home on Wednesday night.
The Utica Comets (35-14-6-1, 77 points, 0.688 points percentage) have hit a rough patch as of late, losing two games in a row and three of their last four heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Bridgeport Islanders (25-25-6-4, 60 points, 0.500 points percentage).
Make that three losses in a row and four of their last five as they fell to the Islanders at the Adirondack Bank Center on Wednesday night by a score of 4-1. Although they got Chase DeLeo back from injury, it was a dramatically different looking lineup for the Comets as they were still missing Nolan Foote, Ryan Schmelzer, and Jeremy Groleau (injuries), as well as AJ Greer and Kevin Bahl (NHL callups). To help alleviate the holes in the lineup, Tyler Irvine, Patrick Grasso, and Tim Theocharidis were recalled from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL and drew into the lineup.
The Islanders opened the scoring at the 4:56 mark of the first period when Mitchell Vande Sompel, took a pass from Simon Holmstrom and ripped a shot past Comets goaltender Akira Schmid to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. Utica would get fifteen shots on goal on former New Jersey Devils and current Bridgeport Islanders goaltender Cory Schneider but only got one by him, as Aarne Talvitie scored a shorthanded goal at 13:52 by putting a rebound off of a Joe Gambardella breakaway attempt in the back of the Bridgeport goal. The Vande Sompel and Talvitie goals were the only markers of the first period.
Like they did in the first, the Islanders scored early in the second period as well. While on the tail end of a power play Arnaud Durandeau took a drop pass from Holmstrom and in turn sent a pass over to Grant Hutton who lasered a shot from the right circle off the post and in to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. The goal was the first power-play goal the Comets have surrendered in seven games. Less than three minutes later, Bridgeport scored again when Akira Schmid made a right pad save off a shot by Otto Koivula but Paul LaDue was able to take advantage of the rebound to score and make the score 3-1. That score held for the rest of the second period.
The Comets were down 3-1 to the Cleveland Monsters in the third period on Monday night and were able to score two goals in the last minute of regulation to tie the game and ultimately send the game to the shootout. There was no such magic on Wednesday night. Schneider stopped all seven of the shots he faced in the third period of this game and LaDue scored his second goal of the game to give Bridgeport a 4-1 victory and a much-needed two points in their chase to grab a playoff spot in the North Division.
Notes: Bridgeport and Utica tied in total shots on goal with 31 each…Bridgeport was 1 for 4 on the power play, Utica was 0 for 1…Aarne Talvitie and Joe Gambardella each had one point for Utica…Paul LaDue (two goals), Austin Czarnik, and Simon Holmstrom (two assists each) led Bridgeport in scoring…Fabian Zetterlund had his three-game point streak snapped…Bridgeport plays again on Saturday night in Toronto…Utica plays again on Friday night at home against Syracuse.
The Utica Comets will be getting for some reinforcments for their lineup when they face the Islanders at home on Wednesday night.
The Utica Comets (35-13-6-1, 77 points, 0.700 points percentage) will be facing a team on Wednesday night that they don’t see that often when they square off against the Bridgeport Islanders (24-25-6-4, 58 points, 0.492 points percentage) at the Adirondack Bank Center. In fact, this is only the second (and last) regular-season meeting between the two teams – the Islanders won the first meeting by a score of 3-2 on December 4th in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Islanders are currently in seventh place in the Atlantic Division.
The Comets are in first place in the Eastern Conference but have struggled as of late, losing three of their last four games. They have been dealing with holes in the roster, with Chase DeLeo and Nolan Foote missing time due to injuries (Ryan Schmelzer might miss Wednesday night’s game as well) and Nate Schnarr having been traded to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. Then, the New Jersey Devils announced on Wednesday morning they have recalled defenseman Kevin Bahl and forward AJ Greer from Utica. To help fill the roster, Utica has made three recalls from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. According to https://echl.com, the Comets have brought up forwards Tyler Irvine and Patrick Grasso, along with defenseman Tim Theocharidis.
Irvine has already spent time with the Comets this season having played eleven games for the team. In those games, he posted with one goal and two assists along with eight PIM. Grasso was a part of Comets training camp and played one game for Utica this season and fifty-eight games with Adirondack. He is having a great year for the Thunder, as he has twenty-two goals and twenty-one assists. Theocharidis has just graduated from Arizona State University and has played four games for the Thunder.
Overall, the Comets are fifth in the AHL in team offense with 193 goals scored, and they are fourth in the league in goals scored at home with 101. With the Greer recall and DeLeo injury, the Utica Comets leader list on offense looks a little different. The top five scorers on the team are now as follows:
Fabian Zetterlund: 21 goals and 24 assists = 45 points (18th in the AHL in goals)
Alexander Holtz: 21 goals and 21 assists = 42 points (20th in the AHL in goals)
Reilly Walsh: 7 goals and 28 assists = 35 points
Robbie Russo: 3 goals and 24 assists = 27 points
Joe Gambardella: 10 goals and 14 assists = 24 points
With Greer in New Jersey, if DeLeo, Foote, and Schmelzer are back in the lineup on Wednesday night, they slot back into the third, fourth, and fifth spots on this list. Regardless, Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in shots with 152 and game-winning goals with five.
Bridgeport slots in at eighteenth in the American Hockey League in overall team offense with 168 goals scored, and they are twenty-fourth in the AHL in team offense on the road having scored 77 goals. Leading the Islanders offense are:
Chris Terry: 21 goals and 24 assists = 45 points (17th in the AHL in goals)
Otto Koivula: 10 goals and 29 assists = 39 points
Andy Andreoff: 15 goals and 22 assists = 37 points
Arnaud Durandeau: 13 goals and 19 assists = 32 points
Simon Holmstrom: 8 goals and 22 assists = 30 points
Terry leads the Islanders in shots with 154 and NHL veteran Richard Panik leads the team in game-winning goals with four.
The Comets rank fourth overall in the AHL in goals allowed with 150 and have given up 73 of those at home – which ranks seventh in the league. Akira Schmid is the clear number one goaltender for the team and has a record of 18-5-3 with a 2.31 GAA and a save percentage of 0.920. He is fourth in the league in GAA, sixth in save percentage and eighth in wins. Schmid is backed up by Mareks Mitens, who has a record of 5-5-2 to go with a GAA of 3.51 and a 0.882 save percentage. Mitens was in goal for the Comets on Monday night against the Cleveland Monsters.
The Islanders rank twenty-second in the AHL in overall team defense, allowing 180 goals, and are seventeenth on the road – surrendering 89 goals away from home. Their goaltending tandem is made up of Jakub Skarek and former New Jersey Devil Cory Schneider. Skarek has a record of 15-11-4 with a 3.01 GAA and 0.904 save percentage. His fifteen wins rank thirteenth in the league. Schneider is carrying a record of 8-10-3 with a GAA of 2.85 and a save percentage of 0.916. Schneider’s save percentage is the twelfth best in the AHL.
The Utica Comets are eighth overall on the power play, scoring 36 goals on 173 power-play opportunities for a success rate of 20.8%. At home, they are twelfth in the league – scoring 19 goals on 92 power-play opportunities for a success rate of 20.7%. Zetterlund leads the team in power-play goals with eight, followed by Holtz who has five. Reilly Walsh, Robbie Russo, and Chase DeLeo are tied for the team lead in power-play assists with eleven.
Overall, the Bridgeport Islanders have a success rate of 14.8% on the power play, scoring 28 goals in 189 opportunities – which ranks twenty-eighth in the league. On the road, they rank twenty-fourth, as they have scored 15 goals in 89 power-play opportunities for a success rate of 16.9%. Terry leads the team in power-play goals with six, followed by Austin Czarnik who has four. Terry also leads the Islanders in power-play assists with eleven.
The Comets rank thirteenth on the overall penalty kill in the AHL, allowing 32 goals in the 174 total times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 81.6%. At home they have a success rate of 87.4%, allowing 11 goals on the 87 times they have been shorthanded at the Adirondack Bank Center, which ranks second in the AHL. The Comets have also not allowed a power-play goal in seven consecutive games. They have eight shorthanded goals this season, with AJ Greer scoring three of them and five other players having one each.
The Islanders have an overall success rate of 82.3% on the penalty kill, allowing 35 goals in the 198 times they have been shorthanded which ranks ninth in the league. On the road, they are third in the AHL with a success rate of 85.1%, allowing 15 power-play goals in the 101 times they have been shorthanded. As a team, they have scored four shorthanded goals, with Cole Bardreau scoring three of them.
Wednesday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT. The 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 Utica Comets suffer their first loss on the road.
It was a night full of surprises for the Utica Comets, just not the kind they wanted.
Originally the Comets were supposed to play in Hartford tonight, but that game was postponed due to a covid outbreak on the Wolfpack. To accommodate the schedule changes, the game that Utica was supposed to play in Bridgeport in March was instead moved to Saturday night.
It shouldn’t have been a problem, as Utica entered the game with an AHL best 16-1-0-0 record and had Akira Schmid starting goal. Schmid was coming off two straight shutouts, was undefeated, and leads the American Hockey League in GAA and save percentage. He faced a Bridgeport team that had a 6-11-1-2 record which puts them at seventh in the AHL Atlantic Division.
There is an old axiom in sports that says “that’s why you play the games”, and Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime win for the underdog Islanders proved this to be so true.
The Comets got on the scoreboard early, when at just two minutes and forty-eight seconds into the game Nolan Foote fired a shot from the right circle past former New Jersey Devil and current Bridgeport Islander Cory Schneider to give Utica a 1-0 lead. The goal is Foote’s fourth of this season.
After the Foote goal, Bridgeport turned the pressure on themselves and got a couple of fantastic chances that Schmid turned aside. They finally broke through however with just over one minute left in the period when Richard Panik carried the puck down the right sideboards in the Comets zone, while defenseman Seth Helgeson pinched in to give the Islanders a numerical advantage. Panik’s shot off Schmid’s pads went right to Helgeson who put the puck in the back of the net to tie the game.
Bridgeport continued to put pressure on the Comets right from the start in the second period. It paid off with just under two minutes in when Simon Holmstrom scooped up a loose puck that was blocked on its way in from the point and put it through Schmid’s legs to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. They would control play for most of the period, with Schmid making several saves to keep the Comets in the game. Utica killed an extended five-on-three power play opportunity for Bridgeport to finish the second period and keep the score 2-1.
Schmid would once again keep his Comets in the game early in the third period when he stopped Cole Coskey on a breakaway to keep it a one-goal game. Even though Utica outshot Bridgeport 13-8 in the period, Schmid still had to make several other big saves besides the Coskey breakaway. The Comets opened up the offense in the third but the Islanders blocked several Utica shots, frustrating their attack. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, one shot the Islanders could not block went in the net, when defenseman Reilly Walsh ripped a wrist shot from the top of the left circle through a screen and past Schneider to tie the game at two. The Walsh goal ultimately sent the game to overtime.
The second overtime game of the season for the Utica Comets did not last long (they defeated the Providence Bruins on October 22nd in their first one). At just forty-three seconds into the overtime period, Richard Panik found himself all alone against Schmid who beat the Comets goaltender on the stick side to give Bridgeport a much-needed 3-2 overtime win.
Notes: Bridgeport outshot Utica 32-31…Utica was 0 for 1 on the power play, Bridgeport was 0 for 3…Nolan Foote (one goal and one assist) and Graeme Clarke (two assists) led all Comets scorers. Richard Panik (one goal and one assist) led the Islanders…This was Akira Schmid’s first loss of the season, although the Comets have still earned at least one point in all nine games he has played in this season…It was brother versus brother in this game as the Comets Tyler Wotherspoon faced his younger brother Parker Wotherspoon of the Islanders…Earlier in the day, the New Jersey Devils reassigned defenseman Colton White to the Utica Comets, although he did not play in this game…The Comets are scheduled to play again this Wednesday night in Rochester, which is also dealing with a Covid outbreak. There is no word yet as to whether this game will be postponed.
The game that wasn’t supposed to happen for the Utica Comets until March is on for this Saturday night.
The Utica Comets were originally scheduled to play a game in the state of Connecticut this Saturday, and they still are – just a little further south than they expected.
The Comets were supposed to play the Hartford Wolfpack in the Insurance City on Saturday, but a Covid outbreak amongst the Wolfpack has forced that game to be postponed. Instead, they will travel to the shores of the Long Island Sound to face the Bridgeport Islanders, who are of course the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders.
Bridgeport is coached by Brent Thompson, whose son Tyce started the season in Utica before being recalled to the New Jersey Devils. The elder Thompson’s team has struggled so far, their 6-11-1-2 record has them in seventh place in the AHL Atlantic Division.
The Bridgeport offense is led by forwards Chris Terry and Otto Koivula – both have fifteen points in seventeen games played. Each brings a different facet to the Islanders attack, as Terry leads the team in goals with six while Koivula’s twelve apples lead the club in assists. Overall Bridgeport has scored fifty goals, which ties them for sixteenth overall in the AHL.
Guarding the Bridgeport net are Jakub Skarek and a man that should be familiar to Devils fans – Cory Schneider. Skarek has seen more playing time, in twelve games he has a record of 5-4-2 with a 3.07 GAA and .901 save percentage (he also has one shutout). Schneider has a 1-6 record to go with a GAA of 3.19 and a .904 save percentage. Long-time Utica hockey fans know Bridgeport goaltending coach Chris Terreri, as he played two seasons for the Utica Devils.
For the Utica Comets, a big key to their AHL best 16-1-0-0 record is they have been getting contributions from everyone up and down the lineup. This includes the offense which overall is fourth in the league with sixty-four goals scored, yet has no one in the top twenty of the AHL scoring race. The team’s leading scorer is Chase DeLeo who has fourteen points in only nine games played (had he played in all seventeen of the Comets games we can assume he would be in the top twenty). On the goals scored front, Alexander Holtz and Joe Gambardella lead the way with six each, with Holtz playing in eight games to Gambardella’s fifteen.
If there is one element that has separated the Comets from the league so far this season, it has been the team’s superior goaltending and defensive play. Utica has given up the least amount of goals in the American Hockey League (thirty) and it’s not even close. This can be attributed to coach Kevin Dineen’s defensive scheme and the goaltending of Akira Schmid and Nico Daws.
The numbers the Comets goaltenders have put up are almost like something out of a video game. Schmid is undefeated, has shutouts in his last two games, and his 1.24 GAA and .956 save percentage are both number one in the AHL. Daws isn’t too far off of Schmid’s numbers as he only has one defeat, and is third in the league in both GAA (2.12) and save percentage (.929). Schmid and Daws are tied for second in the AHL lead for wins with eight each.
Overall, the Comets and Islanders are both middle of the pack in power-play efficiency. Utica is thirteenth in the league at 19.6%, and Bridgeport is nineteenth at 17.9%. The Comets have had only fifty-one opportunities with the man advantage, which is the least in the AHL.
While the two teams are close in power-play efficiency, the penalty kill is a different story. Here the Comets have decided advantage as they are tied for the third-best penalty-killing unit in the league at 86.9%. The Islanders, conversely, have struggled to shut down other teams’ power plays. They are twenty-fourth in the AHL at 78.6%.
Gametime from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT is 7:00. Radio coverage begins at 6:30 with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast will be on AHLTV.