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!

Utica Comets Throttle the Springfield Thunderbirds

The Utica Comets roll to a 5-1 victory behind big nights from Kevin Bahl, Joe Gambardella, Aj Greer, and Akira Schmid.

The Utica Comets got into the groove early in their Saturday night game against the Springfield Thunderbirds and stayed there for the rest of the game.

Defenseman Kevin Bahl opened the scoring just thirty-eight seconds into the game. AJ Greer, who has made a huge impact since returning to the Comets from the New Jersey Devils, took control of the puck along the left side of the Springfield zone and dished the puck to Bahl who was waiting at the point. Bahl then unleashed a slapshot that beat former Comet and current Springfield goaltender Joel Hofer to give Utica an early 1-0 lead.

The Comets controlled play for most of the period which led to them lighting the lamp again with just under three minutes left in the frame with Kevin Bahl being involved again. This time his shot from the point was stopped by Hofer but he left a rebound on the left side of his crease that Brian Flynn put home to give Utica a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission

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For the ninth game in a row, the Comets were outshot in the second period (and twelfth in the past thirteen), but it was Utica that did most of the scoring. At the 5:06 mark. Fabian Zetterlund made a slick move in the left side of the Springfield zone and feathered a cross-ice pass to Aarne Talvitie who scored his third goal in six games off of a one-timer from the right circle. Three minutes later, the red-hot Joe Gambardella got on the board when a rebound off the end boards from Reilly Walsh’s point shot came right to him for a backhand shot to put the Comets up 4-0.

Utica Comets vs Springfield Thunderbirds Game Preview 02-05-2022

After the Gambardella goal, a pair of consecutive minor penalties by Jeremy Groleau would enable Springfield to use their top five powerplay unit to build some momentum. They capitalized on the second penalty, as former Comet Nathan Walker (four games played in Utica during the 2020-21 season) put rebound off of a shot by another former Comet Sam Anas past Akira Schmid to get the Thunderbirds on the scoreboard. Springfield continued to put the pressure on after the Walker goal, but could not get any more goals and the second period ended with Utica leading by a score of 4-1.

The Thunderbirds turned up the pressure in the third period but Schmid made several big saves to hold them at bay. With just under six minutes to go, Springfield coach Drew Bannister took a gamble and pulled Hofer in a desperate attempt to cut into Utica’s three-goal lead. It backfired, as Alexander Holtz threaded a pass through the neutral zone to AJ Greer, who was waiting at the Springfield blue line. Greer skated in unabated and deposited the puck into the empty net for the game’s final goal and the Comets earned a dominating 5-1 victory.

Notes: Springfield outshot Utica 30 to 28…Springfield was 1 for 4 on the powerplay, Utica was 0 for 1…The Comets played the game without regulars Chase DeLeo, Ryan Schmelzer, and Nikita Okhotiuk. Colton White was recalled to the New Jersey Devils and Joe Masonius was recalled by the Comets from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL…AJ Greer has a six-game point streak going, Joe Gambardella’s point streak is at five games, Alexander Holtz has at least one point in four straight games, and Frederik Gauthier has an active three-game point streak…Kevin Bahl led Utica scorers with three points (one goal and two assists), while Joe Gambardella and AJ Greer (one goal and one assist), and Reilly Walsh (two assists) each had two points. Springfield had three players with one point each. Springfield and Utica meet again for a re-match in Springfield on Wednesday night.

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