Utica Comets Drop Close Game to the Hartford Wolfpack

The Comets have lost three of their last four games.

The good news is the Utica Comets held the Hartford Wolfpack to only two goals. The bad news is they only scored one for themselves.

With Frank Fleming and Coach Duggs from Barstool Sports in attendance, the Comets got an unpleasant surprise before the game even started. Alexander Holtz and Kevin Bahl, who had just been reassigned to the team two days prior by the New Jersey Devils, were placed in the AHL Covid protocol making them unavailable for the game (they had played the night before against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton).

The Wolfpack, who are the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, scored the game’s first goal in the first period, taking just twelve seconds to strike on the first powerplay of the contest. Anthony Bitetto fed Justin Richards in the left circle who attempted to send a pass to Ty Ronning but instead the puck ended up in the net past Utica goaltender Mareks Mitens to make the score 1-0. This was Mitens second start in as many nights, as he was in goal for the Comets 6-5 shootout win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins the night before.

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The Comets nearly tied the game with one minute left in the first period when Tyler Irvine got in all alone on a breakaway against Hartford goaltender Adam Huska, but Huska made the save to keep the score at 1-0 heading into the first intermission.

The Comets came out with a more concentrated offensive effort in the second period, outshooting the Wolfpack five to one through the first five minutes of the frame. Much to Utica’s chagrin, it would be Hartford that scored the next goal. Mike O’Leary blocked a Utica clearing attempt at the blue line and slid a pass to Cristiano DiGiacinto, who then sent a backhanded pass to Alex Whelan deep in the right circle. Whelan then wired a shot top shelf past Mitens to extend the Wolfpack lead to two – a lead they would hold throughout the period.

Utica Comets Notch Shootout Win vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

The beginning of the third period was a reversal of what the start of the second period was, as the Wolfpack outshot the Comets three to none, but they gave Utica a powerplay that the Comets would capitalize on. This time it was the Comets who blocked a clearing attempt at the blue line and Fabian Zetterlund sent a cross-ice pass to team leading scorer Chase DeLeo along the left half wall. DeLeo then found Frederik Gauthier at the top of the Hartford crease who redirected the feed past Huska and into the net to make the score 2-1.

With a minute left in the game and the score 2-1, Utica coach Kevin Dineen pulled Mitens for an extra skater. Despite a furious attempt to the game in the closing seconds, Utica could not get one more past Huska, and Hartford skated away with the victory. The loss was only the third regulation defeat of the season for the Comets, albeit their second in their last three games.

Notes: Hartford outshot Utica by a 25-22 margain…Hartford was 1 for 6 on the powerplay, Utica was 1 for 4…Neither team had a player with more than one point in the game…With his powerplay assist, Utica’s Chase DeLeo extended his point scoring streak to six games…Frederik Gauthier of the Comets has goals in two straight games…Hartford’s next game is on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Checkers…Utica’s next game is also on Wednesday night, on the road against Rochester.

The Utica Comets Friday night game is happening and other notes

After having first game of their two game set against the Cleveland Monsters postponed, game two is a go for the Utica Comets.

The Utica Comets have just dodged a proverbial bullet.

Originally scheduled for a back-to-back set of games against the Cleveland Monsters on Thursday and Friday nights in Cleveland, the teams received some bad news on Thursday afternoon. Per AHL Communications, Thursday night’s game was postponed due to “league COVID-19 protocols affecting the Utica Comets”. At that particular time, no one knew what the status of Friday night’s game was, and the Comets remained in Utica awaiting the league’s decision on whether the game would be played or not.

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The wait is over, as the Comets have traveled to Cleveland and Friday night’s game will happen as scheduled. The Comets have cleared the COVID protocols and will indeed take the ice, although we had an idea that was going to happen on Thursday night, thanks to Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast co-host Dom Reille spotting the team’s buses being loaded up outside of the Adirondack Bank Center for an obvious road trip (see his tweet at the bottom of this article). The Utica Comets confirmed via their Twitter account today that tonight’s game is happening.

For our preview of the series versus the Monsters, please click on this link: Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters series preview. It might be only one game now, but the stats are still the same and relevant.

With the scheduling puzzle solved, only one question remained – who would be the Comet’s second goaltender? Most believed when the New Jersey Devils acquired goaltender Jon Gillies from the St. Louis Blues (The New Jersey Devils acquire former Utica Comets goaltender), it would be either him or Akira Schmid that would join Marek Mitens as the goaltending tandem in Utica while Nico Daws recovers from a lower-body injury. The Devils, however, appear to have other plans for now.

The newest episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast features a very entertaining interview with Neil Villapiano from the Devils State of Mind Podcast talking about the New Jersey Devils, Utica Comets, and much more.

As of this writing (December 17th at 1:30 pm), both Schmid and Gillies are still with New Jersey, prompting the Comets to go the PTO route to have a backup goaltender in place for their Friday night (and possibly more) game. According to the AHL Transactions section on https://theahl.com, the team has signed goaltender Bailey Brkin to a professional tryout contract. Per https://hockeydb.com, Brkin is twenty-two years old and has played in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), and the ECHL this season. With the Quad City Storm of the SPHL, he has played ten games, posting a record of 8-1-1 with a 1.79 GAA and .937 save percentage. He played one game for the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL in which he let in only two goals but took the loss. It remains unclear how long Brkin will be with the Comets.

Tonight’s game in Cleveland starts at 7:00 pm EST. Radio coverage begins at 6:30 with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast begins at 7:00 on AHLTV.

The Utica Comets remain undefeated with win on Friday night

Utica Comets win fourth straight game to start the season.

It was trick or treat night at the Adirondack Bank Center, and what at first looked like a trick on the home crowd turned into a treat, as the Utica Comets defeated the Lehigh Valley Phantoms by a score of 5-2. The win keeps Utica in first place in the AHL North Division.

This game featured the returns of Cal O’Reilly and Adam Clendening, members of the Comets 2015 Calder Cup finalist team. Making their debuts for the current Comets were defenseman Colton White and forward Patrick McGrath. White was recently assigned to Utica by the New Jersey Devils. The Comets played the game without newly appointed captain Ryan Schmelzer and alternate captain Joe Gambardella.

The Phantoms controlled play in the first period, as the Comets didn’t seem to have their legs under them after being off for nearly a week. Goaltender Nico Daws, himself returning from New Jersey, held Lehigh Valley scoreless in the first period by stopping all ten shots he faced – including two point blank chances by the Phantoms. His counterpart, Samuel Ersson, turned aside all six of Utica shots.

Utica Comets vs Lehigh Valley Phantoms preview

The second period would bring more of the same, as Lehigh Valley continued to control play. Helping this was the fact the Comets had to kill two minor penalties in the earlier going of the period – which they did. Utica would go on to kill all three of Lehigh Valley’s power play chances for the game, maintaining their AHL best 100% penalty kill rate for the season. Shortly after the Phantoms second power play was denied, Ersson made his biggest save of the night by stopping Utica’s Nolan Foote on a breakaway.

The Phantoms would be the first to break through on the scoreboard with five minutes and forty-seven seconds left in the second period. Linus Hogberg won a face-off back to the point and then Wyatte Wylie’s shot was tipped in front by German Rubstov past Daws to give the visiting team a one to nothing lead. A goal by Hayden Hodgson one and a half minutes later staked Lehigh Valley to a two to nothing lead.

It looked as though the Comets would go to the locker room down two goals, but with twenty-five seconds left, Utica’s Nate Schnarr had other ideas. He took a stretch pass out of the defensive zone by AJ Greer and beat Ersson on a breakaway to give the Comets life heading into the second intermission.

Brand new episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick featuring our Utica College Men’s hockey preview with Coach Gary Heenan

In keeping with the Halloween theme of the night, the Comets rose from the dead in the third period. It started early, as Alexander Holtz banged home a rebound off of a Chase DeLeo shot at just over a minute into the period to knot the score at two. Two and a half minutes later Utica Comets defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone, broke in on Ersson and beat him on the short side with a wrist shot to give the Comets their first lead of the night. Utica was rolling, and not even a brief power outage would stop them.

An insurance goal was added with a little over seven minutes left, when Chase DeLeo fed a pass to Alexander Holtz on a two on one that Holtz buried for his team leading fifth goal. Fabian Zetterlund would add an empty net goal to seal the Comets 5-2 win. Nico Daws earned his second win of the season with an outstanding effort in this game.

Three Stars of the Game:

  • #1 Alexander Holtz
  • #2. Chase DeLeo
  • #3. Nico Daws

Notes: DeLeo led the Comets in points for the game with three (all assists), he was also an alternate captain in the absence of Gambardella…Lehigh Valley outshot Utica by a total of 33-22….Lehigh Valley was 0/3 on the power play, while Utica was 0/1….the Comets have had the fewest chances on the power play in the AHL this season with only 7….The Comets are the only team in the AHL that has not given up a power play goal this season….The Comets have had a lot of time between games to start the season, but that changes next weekend when they play games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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