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 Cleveland Monsters Weekend Series Preview

The Utica Comets take on the Cleveland Monsters at the Adirondack Bank Center on Friday and Saturday nights.

In the standings, the Utica Comets and Cleveland Monsters are opposite trajectories. The Comets are in first place by a comfortable margin with a 27-7-5-0 and a .756 points percentage (thank you Ben Birnell for the clarification) while the Monsters are in last place in the same division posting a 13-19-5-3 record good for a .425 points percentage.

When it comes to these two teams, however, the standings do not tell the whole story. They have played each other three times so far this season, and although the Comets have won all three games, two of those were by a one-goal margin and the other game was a two-goal victory. Although separated by twenty-five points in the standings, the Monsters have proven thus far they stay in games against the high-flying Comets.

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Entering this weekend’s series, the Utica Comets are ranked third overall in the American Hockey League in goals scored with 143. This despite playing the last three games without team-leading scorer Chase DeLeo, who has ten goals and twenty-five assists in only twenty-seven games played. In his absence, the team’s leading goal scorer, Fabian Zetterlund, has significantly closed the gap between him and Deleo for the Comets points lead. Zetterlund now has thirty-four points on the strength of seventeen goals and seventeen assists and has an active three-game point streak. Speaking of point streaks, fellow Swede Alexander Holtz has taken his game to the next level as of late, as he has at least one point in five straight games and has a total of fourteen goals and fifteen assists in only twenty-five games played.

The Monsters rank twenty-fifth in the AHL in team offense with 108 goals scored and are without team-leading scorer (in both points and goals) Brendan Gaunce who is currently with Cleveland’s NHL parent club the Columbus Blue Jackets. With Gaunce gone, defenseman Jake Christiansen leads the team in points with twenty-two. He is trailed by Tyler Angle who has twenty-one points along with Liam Foudy and Kevin Stenlund, who has nineteen each. Foudy also currently leads the Monsters in goals scored with seven.

Like their offense, the Utica Comets ranks in the top five in the AHL as well, as they are ranked fifth – giving up ninety-nine goals so far this season. They have five current roster players in the top twenty in the league in +/- (six if you count Tyler Wotherspoon, who is currently with the Canadian Olympic Team). Goaltending has been a calling card of the Comets all season long too. Current starter Akira Schmid finally suffered his first loss in regulation on Wednesday against the Springfield Thunderbirds, which is astounding considering the date of that game was February 9th. Schmid has a record of 11-1-2, and ranks number one in the AHL in both GAA (1.65) and save percentage (.944). He is backed up by Mareks Mitens, who is 5-3-1 with a 3.64 GAA and .879 save percentage so far for the Comets this season.

Utica Comets Suffer Defeat Against the Springfield Thunderbirds

Like their offense, the Monsters are in the bottom half of the league in team defense as well – ranking twenty-seventh allowing 137 goals. Cleveland has been having trouble finding consistency in goal, especially with Danill Tarasov currently in Columbus. The Monsters goaltending tandem is currently made up of Jean-Francois Berube and Jet Greaves. Berube is 4-8-4 on the season with a 3.16 GAA and .899 save percentage. Greaves has a record of 3-6-0 to go with a 3.35 GAA and .890 save percentage.

Reflecting their offensive capabilities, the Comets and Monsters are on the opposite ends of the spectrum on the powerplay as well. Utica has the third best powerplay unit in the league, converting 28 of 118 chances (still the least amount of chances in the AHL) for a success rate of 23.7%. Cleveland ranks twenty-seventh, as they have scored 21 goals on 139 opportunities for a success rate of 15.1%.

The one category Utica and Cleveland have similarities is the penalty kill, where they are both in the bottom half of the AHL. The Comets are eighteenth, allowing 25 goals on the 129 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 80.6%. The rank twenty-fifth, as they have allowed 37 goals on the 163 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 77.3%.

Both of this weekends games are scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EST. On both nights radio coverage will begin with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL) and the television broadcast will begin at 7:00 pm on both WPNY and AHLTV.

Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters series preview

UPDATE: Thursday night’s game is now officially postponed.

The Utica Comets are in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday and Friday nights for a two game series against the Monsters.

Last Friday night, the Utica Comets defeated the Cleveland Monsters by a score of 3-1 in the friendly confines of Adirondack Bank Center. Now the scene shifts 582 miles west to the shores of Lake Erie for the two-game set between the AHL North Division rivals. Utica leads the division and the league with a 17-1-2-0 mark, while Cleveland is currently in third place in the division with a 10-8-2-3 record.

The Comets won last Friday night’s game behind a strong goaltending performance from Marek Mitens. Mitens was recalled by Utica from the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder after they lost both of their goaltenders in a span of forty-eight hours. Nico Daws was forced from last Wednesday night’s game against the Rochester Americans after a collision in his crease caused a lower-body injury that Comets Coach Kevin Dineen confirmed will require a week-to-week recovery timeline. Then, on the morning of the Cleveland game, Akira Schmid was recalled to the New Jersey Devils in the wake of Jonathan Bernier’s potentially season-ending injury pressing Mitens into service in Utica.

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The original plan was for the Utica Comets to sign an ECHL goaltender to a PTO (professional tryout) to back up Mitens for the time being. It now appears that plan has been scrapped as the New Jersey Devils announced on Wednesday afternoon they had traded for former Comets goaltender Jon Gillies – more on the trade can be found here: The New Jersey Devils acquire former Utica Comets goaltender. With Gillies now in the fold, it appears Schmid will be returning to Utica. It makes sense to have Schmid go to Utica instead of Gillies as Schmid is still waiver exempt and he will get more playing time in the AHL than the NHL.

Nate Schnarr of the Utica Comets is about to bat the puck into the Cleveland Monsters net during their game on Friday night. Photo credit: Kristy Kinville.

Despite the temporary turbulence in goal, the Comets still have the best record in the AHL. The Comets sparkling record is a result of getting contributions from everyone throughout the lineup. the perfect example of this is their offense, where they rank eighth in the American Hockey League despite not having any individual players in the top twenty of the AHL scoring race. The Comets offense is led by center Chase DeLeo and defenseman Reilly Walsh, who each have fifteen points. They are followed closely by Nate Schnarr and Graeme Clarke (fourteen points each), and Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer with thirteen points each. See what I mean about getting contributions from everyone?

Much like they did in goal, the Comets will have to deal with a loss on offense – although this one is not due to injury. Co-team leader in goals scored Alexander Holtz (he has six like Fabian Zetterlund, Nate Schnarr, and Joe Gambardella) has left the team to join Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships. He won’t return until potentially January 6th, but the good news is that Joe Gambardella will return for this series after missing the last four games with an injury. Marian Studenic, who has been a key part of the team, is also currently with the New Jersey Devils after being recently recalled.

An open letter to the hockey fans of the Mohawk Valley

The Monsters are no slouches on offense themselves, as they rank eleventh in the AHL in goals scored with seventy, and like the Comets, they don’t have anyone among the top twenty AHL scorers either. Defenseman Jake Christiansen’s eighteen points lead the team, but he has been recalled to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Closely trailing him are Brendan Gaunce and Liam Foudy with sixteen points each. Gaunce is a former Comet, and Foudy spoiled Mitens shutout bid last Friday night with just 1:34 left in the game.

The offense is good for the Utica Comets, but the defense is even better. Here they rank number one in the AHL with only thirty-eight goals allowed. The goaltending of Daws, Schmid, and recently Mitens, has been a huge part of this – as Daws and Schmid are statistically the best goaltending tandem in the AHL. Which Schmid most likely returning to the Comets, and Mitens showing he can certainly play in the American Hockey League, Utica’s strong goaltending play should continue.

Helping the goaltending is the Utica Comets under-rated defense corps. Reilly Walsh provides offensive spark from the backend, while Robbie Russo, Tyler Wotherspoon, Nikita Okhotiuk, Jeremy Groleau, and the recently reassigned Colton White have all provided a solid defensive presence. Tyler Wotherspoon, Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk are all in the top twenty in plus/minus in the AHL. Bahl was recently recalled to New Jersey, but Michael Vukojevic has been recalled by Utica to replace the towering defenseman. In the games he has played for the Comets this season, Vukojevic has shown he too can be a solid contributor for the club.

The Utica Comets have a wealth of NHL experience

Unlike Utica, the defense has been an area of concern for the Cleveland Monsters this season. Only seven teams have allowed more than the seventy-three goals the Monsters have let in. Getting goaltender Danill Tarasov back from the Blue Jackets should help, as his record is 5-3-2 to go with his 3.07 GAA and .894 save percentage. Tarasov’s GAA and save percentage do not reflect how good he has been at times this season. His goaltending partner, J.F. Berube, is a long-time veteran of the AHL (Comets fans will remember him from the 2015 Calder Cup Final). Berube currently has a 4-4-3 record as well as a 2.82 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Neither team has a standout power play with Utica ranking sixteenth in the AHL at 19.3% and Cleveland is twenty-third with a 17% success rate. On the road, the Comets are 14.81% on the power play, and the Monsters are 11.9% at home. The Comets still have the fewest amount of power-play opportunities in the league with only fifty-seven.

Both the Comets and the Monsters are in the top half of the AHL on the penalty kill. Overall, Utica is at 85.1% which is the sixth-best in the league, while they are at 79.41% on the road. Cleveland is sixteenth in the AHL with an overall percentage of 81.1. At home, they kill 82.9 % of the penalties they take.

Both games in Cleveland start at 7 pm EST. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show at 6:30 on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), and the television broadcast begins at 7 pm on AHLTV.

Episode #55 features the host of The Devils State of Mind Podcast Neil Villapiano! Neil gives his honest, but often humorous thoughts on the New Jersey Devils struggles this season, the Jon Gillies trade, the Utica Comets, Alexander Holtz, which Comets have impressed him the most, and more! Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast and The Devils State of Mind Podcast are available on all major podcast platforms.

Utica Comets vs Cleveland Monsters game preview

This will be the first time the Utica Comets see their AHL North Division rivals this season.

When the Utica Comets take the ice on Friday night at the Adirondack Bank Center, they’ll be doing so without a key part of their team.

That’s because goaltender Nico Daws was injured after a collision in his crease during the third period of Wednesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Rochester Americans. Daws was forced to exit the game, and could not put any weight on his right leg as he was leaving the ice. Akira Schmid finished the game in his absence.

There has been no official word on the extent of Daws’s injury, but the Comets recalled a familiar face from the Adirondack Thunder in Marek Mitens on Thursday to presumably back Schmid up on Friday night at least.

So it’s next man up for the Comets, and they don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. The Cleveland Monsters, who also play in the AHL North Division, and are the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, will be their opponent on Friday night. The Monsters are in third place in the North Division with a 10-6-2-3 record good for a winning percentage of .595. They trail the Rochester Americans and the Comets, who are in first place overall with an AHL best 16-1-2-0 record and .895 winning percentage.

On offense, Cleveland is tied with three other teams for fifth overall in the AHL for goals scored with sixty-seven. Individually, defenseman Jake Christiansen leads the team in points with eighteen, and his thirteen assists are tied for the team lead in that category with Tyler Angle. Former Utica Comet Brendan Gaunce is leading the team in goals scored with seven, and his sixteen points are the second-most on the team. Longtime Comets fans will recall Gaunce was on the team when they made their run to the Calder Cup Final in 2015.

Utica Comets lose their second straight overtime game

The Utica Comets enter Friday night’s game with the third most goals scored in the AHL with sixty-nine. For most of the season, Chase DeLeo has been the sole leader in points scored on the team, but a recent surge by defenseman Reilly Walsh now has them both tied for the lead with fifteen points. Leading the team in goals scored are Joe Gambardella and Alexander Holtz with six each – although Gambardella has missed the past three games and Holtz hasn’t scored in the past five. The Comets truly have a “score by committee” offense.

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Only four teams in the American Hockey League have given more goals than the sixty-six the Monsters have allowed. With Daniil Tarasov in Columbus, J.F. Berube is Cleveland’s primary goaltender. In ten games played, Berube has a record of 4-3-3 with a 2.80 GAA and a .912 save percentage. Jet Greaves serves as the second Monsters goaltender while Tarasov is in Columbus.

Conversely, the Utica Comets are the best overall defensive team in the AHL, allowing only thirty-seven goals in nineteen games, with the Comet’s goaltending being a huge factor in their defensive excellence. Akira Schmid and Nico Daws have both been outstanding this season. Schmid has a record of 8-0-2, his 1.60 GAA is second best in the AHL, and his .944 is best in the league. As stated earlier, with Daws being injured, Marek Mitens has been recalled from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL to back up Schmid. In thirteen games with the Thunder, Mitens has a record of 7-4-1-0 to go with a 3.12 GAA and .902 save percentage.

A look at the Utica Comets overall underlying numbers so far

The Comets and Monsters are not that far apart in power-play efficiency. Utica is nineteenth in the league with an 18.5% conversion rate, while Cleveland sits at twenty-fifth with a 16.5% success rate. The Monsters have been on the power play much more than the Comets this season, however. They have had eighty-five opportunities while Utica has had only fifty-four – which is the least amount of power-play chances in the AHL so far this season.

The Utica Comets have the fifth-best penalty-killing units in the league, killing 84.8% of the power plays they face. Cleveland is thirteenth, having killed 82.4% of the penalties they have taken. The eighty-five power-play opportunities the Monsters have given up is the fourth most in the American Hockey League so far, while the Comets have given up sixty-six. Only five teams have given up fewer power play opportunities than Utica has.

The puck drops for Friday night’s game at the Adirondack Bank Center at 7:00 pm. Radio coverage begins at 6:30 with the Comets pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 pm on WPNY and AHLTV.

Episode #54 features a very entertaining interview with Utica College Pioneers Head Coach Gary Heenan. The coach talks about the Pioneers season so far, the Thanksgiving Showcase, the Teddy Bear Toss, the season ahead, his famous relative, and more. After the interview, the guys chat about the Utica Comets, news from around the NHL, and more! You can subscribe to the show at “Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast” on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major podcast platforms.

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