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!

Nate Schnarr traded by the New Jersey Devils

Former Utica Comet Nate Schnarr was traded on Monday to the Montreal Canadiens for goaltender Andrew Hammond.

Nate Schnarr is moving north of the border after the New Jersey Devils traded him to the Montreal Canadiens for Andrew Hammond. Although they lose a key member of their forward group, the trade will most likely mean the eventual return of goaltender Nico Daws to the Utica Comets.

Schnarr is in his third professional season. After being drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Schnarr was acquired by the New Jersey Devils as a part of the December 16th, 2019 trade of Taylor Hall. The twenty-three-year-old center played in forty-three games for the Utica Comets this season posting thirteen goals and thirteen assists in forty-three games played to go with 26 PIM and a +12 rating.

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Hammond, who is also known as “The Hamburgler”, is thirty-four years old, and began his professional career in 2013. He is a veteran of sixty NHL games with an overall record of 30-15-6 with a GAA of 2.31 and a 0.920 save percentage to go with 4 shutouts. He spent time with the Iowa Wild this season and has also played four games for the Montreal Canadiens, his record with Montreal this season is 3-0-0 with a 2.40 GAA and 0.920 save percentage. He is currently on injured reserve but is scheduled to return to action within one to two weeks.

Utica Comets vs Cleveland Monsters Game Preview 03-21-2022

Schnarr will most likely be assigned to the Laval Rocket. When Hammond returns, it is likely Nico Daws will be reassigned to the Utica Comets (he does not need to clear waivers) to join Akira Schmid as Utica’s goaltending tandem. Daws and Schmid formed what was considered by many to be the best goaltending tandem in the American Hockey League during the first half of this season.

Utica Comets Shoot Down the Laval Rocket in Overtime

Akira Schmid returns, AJ Greer has a big night, and Alexander Holtz is the hero in the Utica Comets 3-2 overtime victory.

The Utica Comets and Laval Rocket met for the second time in three nights, and by the end of Friday night, there was certainly a dislike built up between the two teams. After defeating Utica on Wednesday night, the Rocket looked to complete the two-game sweep and take a rare season series lead over the Comets.

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After only registering two shots on goal for the first nine minutes of the first period, the Comets opened the floodgates on Laval goaltender Kevin Poulin. They poured in thirteen shots over the course of the rest of the period, and at the 14:27 mark, AJ Greer scored the first of his two goals when he took a feed from Frederik Gauthier and snapped a wrist shot past Poulin from the high slot to make the score 1-0. Just over four minutes later, Greer struck again – this time on the powerplay. He took a cross-ice pass from Joe Gambardella and beat Poulin from the right circle to give the Comets a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

Utica Comets goalie makes a save on Friday night against the Laval Rocket. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

Schmid and Poulin both made huge saves on point-blank chances in the second period, but the Rocket eventually broke through to get on the scoreboard. Corey Schueneman faked a shot from the point and passed to Troy Dello who ripped a wrist shot Schmid and into the Utica goal to make the score 2-1. After the Tory goal, there was a scary moment after a questionable hit on Ryan Schmelzer left the Comets captain slow to get up, Kevin Bahl, and Laval’s Gabriel Borque wrestled to the ice. Schmelzer was able to get to the bench under his own power, but a tone was set that would boil over at the end of the game.

Utica Comets vs Laval Rocket Series Preview 02-02-2022

The Comets came out of the locker room in the third period a determined team, outshooting the Rocket eight to nothing through the first seven minutes. The Rocket, however, would capitalize on their first shot of the period when Schueneman snapped a shot from the point past a screened Schmid to tie the game at two. Neither team could muster the go-ahead goal for the rest of the period and the game headed to overtime.

The overtime period lasted only twenty-one seconds, as the Comets won the opening faceoff and Alexander Holtz took over. He skated the puck into the Rocket zone and ripped a shot past Poulin to win the game for Utica. Right after the Holtz goal, the tension between the teams boiled over with the benches-clearing for a team-wide confrontation. Order was eventually restored, and the home crowd went home happy.

Notes: Utica outshot Laval 35-22…Utica was 1 for 3 on the powerplay, Laval was 0 for 2…This was Schmid’s first game for the Comets since January 21st – a victory over Syracuse…Comets leading scorer Chase DeLeo did not play in the game…AJ Greer has a five-game point streak going, including three goals in his last three games…Joe Gambardella has a four-game point streak…Laval plays again on Saturday night at Belleville…Utica plays again on Saturday night as well, at home against Springfield.

Utica Comets Lose to the Laval Rocket on Wednesday Night

Despite a good start, the Utica Comets could not hold of the Rocket as they come from behind for a 4-2 victory.

The Utica Comets and Laval Rocket opened a two-game series on Wednesday night at the Adirondack Bank Center that will have a rematch on Friday night in Utica as well. Coming into Wednesday night’s contest, the Comets and Rocket were separated in the standings by twenty-one points, but the head-to-head series this season was much closer – with the Comets winning two of the three games but all three games were decided by two goals or less.

The Comets came out in the first period looking very much like a team that has the best record in the American Hockey League. In the first ten minutes, Utica had chances to score but was turned aside by Laval goaltender Kevin Poulin. After weathering the initial storm, the Rocket was able to slow things down and get some chances of their own which were thwarted by Comets goaltender Nico Daws.

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The Comets, however, broke through with six minutes and forty seconds left in the first period. Reilly Walsh carried the puck over the Laval blue line, dished the puck to Joe Gambardella on the right side who gave it right back and Walsh took a shot that barely got through Poulin and across the goal line. Four minutes later, Frederik Gauthier dug the puck out of the left corner, got it to AJ Greer who cut across the slot and slid it to the red-hot Alexander Holtz. Holtz then wired a shot into the top of the Laval net to put the Comets up by a score of two to nothing a score that held for the rest of the period but could have been a larger Comets advantage if it weren’t for Poulin making some big saves.

Utica Comets vs Laval Rocket Series Preview 02-02-2022

After giving up two powerplays in the second period that they successfully killed, the Rocket took the rest of the frame over. From the ten-minute point until the end of the period the Rocket outshot the Comets by a margin of nine to two and earned a goal for their efforts. With just over five minutes left in the period, Laval’s Danick Martel was able to get several chances at a rebound off of a Gianni Fairbrother shot which he was finally able to put the third attempt past Daws. Laval continued to hold momentum after the Martel goal, but when the period ended the score remained 2-1 with the Comets holding the lead.

The Utica Comets set up from the point against the Laval Rocket on Wednesday night. Photo credit: Kristy Kinville.

The physicality picked up in the second period and continued into the third. The shot total for the period was only six to four favoring Utica, but scoring results proved disastrous for the Comets. Alex Belzile scored on the first shot for the Rocket to tie the game. Five minutes later they took advantage of a powerplay opportunity when Rafael Harvey-Pinard tipped a Louie Belpedio shot from the point past Daws to give Laval a 3-2 lead. Poulin made another huge save right after the Harvey-Pinard goal, this time off of Brian Flynn to keep the Rocket in the lead. Belzile scored his second goal of the night into an empty net with seventeen seconds left to seal a 4-2 win for the Rocket, setting up what should be an intense re-match on Friday night.

Notes: Utica outshot Laval 27-25…Utica was 0 for 3 on the powerplay, Laval was 1 for 2…Joe Gambardella has a three-game point streak going…Nate Schnarr remains out of the lineup for the Comets, he has missed the last five games…Rocket goaltender Kevin Poulin is undefeated (2-0) against the Comets so far this season…Prior to this game, the Comets earned at least one point in six straight games…The teams meet again on Friday night at the Adirondack Bank Center, start time is 7:00 pm EST.

Utica Comets vs Laval Rocket Series Preview 02-02-2022

The Utica Comets and Laval Rocket will meet for the fourth time and fifth times this season on Wednesday and Friday night.

The Utica Comets return home to the Adirondack Bank Center on Wednesday night to face the Laval Rocket after a weekend road trip that saw them pick up wins in Rochester on Saturday night, and then again in Cleveland on Sunday. Wednesday is also Groundhog Day and the Comets hope that it is not a repeat of the last time they played the Rocket, as the Montreal Canadiens AHL affiliate defeated them 4-3 the last time they played on January 19th in Laval.

Things are a bit different for the Comets since the last time they played the Rocket. Going into the January 19th contest, Utica had lost four of its previous six games. Since that loss to the Rocket, the Comets have won five of their last six games and are back to playing the strong defensive game they have become known for – they have allowed more than three goals just once in that span. Utica still has the best record in the AHL at 25-5-5-0 and a .786 winning percentage.

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The Rocket will be playing their first games since returning from the Lone Star State of Texas, where they split a pair of games with the Texas Stars. They have won three of their last five games, and are 7-3 over their last ten games. Laval is currently in fourth place in the North Division with a record of 16-12-2-0 and a winning percentage of .567.

The Utica Comets continue to be a force to be reckoned with on offense. They are fourth in the American Hockey League in goals scored with 131. Chase DeLeo continues to lead the team in points and is eleventh overall in the AHL with thirty-five. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in goals scored with sixteen (he is also second on the team in points with thirty-one). Zetterlund is followed by Nate Schnarr, who has missed the last four games, with twelve. Alexander Holtz, who was just named the AHL Rookie of the Month for January, is third on the team in goals scored with eleven.

Jesse Ylonen was recently returned to the Rocket from the Montreal Canadiens, and he leads the team in points with eighteen in only twenty games played. With Laurent Dauphin still in Montreal, Jean-Sebastien Dea leads the team in goals with eleven. As a team, the Rocket is twenty-second in the league in goals scored with ninety-nine.

Utica Comets Notch a Victory Over the Cleveland Monsters

The defense has been a strong suit for both the Comets and Rocket. Utica has given up the second-fewest goals in the league with eighty-nine. The strong goaltending they have has been a key factor in their success. Nico Daws has been sensational this season ranking eighth in the AHL in GAA with 2.40, eighth in save percentage at .919, and eleventh in wins with eleven. With Akira Schmid in New Jersey with the Devils, Mareks Mitens has performed admirably as the second half of the Utica goaltending tandem. He has a record of 5-3-1 with a 3.64 GAA and .879 save percentage. The Comets are also getting some reinforcements on the blue line, as defenseman Colton White has been reassigned to Utica from the New Jersey Devils.

The Rocket is eleventh in the AHL in goals allowed with 104. They have experienced tremendous roster turmoil with callups to Montreal, especially among their goaltenders. Their current tandem is Kevin Poulin and Louis-Philip Guindon, both of whom spent time in the ECHL this season. Poulin has an AHL record of 3-3-0 with a GAA of 3.26 and a .900 save percentage. Guindon’s record with the Rocket is 1-0-0 with a 1.63 GAA and .946 save percentage.

On the powerplay, the Comets are third in the AHL with a success rate of 23.9%, while the Rocket is twentieth at 18.4%. It should be noted the Comets have had the least amount of powerplay opportunities in the league and the Rocket have had the second least.

On the penalty kill, Laval is thirteenth overall in the AHL, killing off 82.1% of the powerplay chances they give up. The Comets rank eighteenth, successfully killing 81.2% of the powerplay chances they hand out.

Both the Wednesday night and Friday night matchups start at 7:00 pm EST. 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 Utica Comets Lose a Close Game to the Laval Rocket

Photo credit: AHLTV

For the third straight game, the Utica Comets come back to tie the score in the third period. This time they ultimately fell short.

The Utica Comets have developed a knack lately for playing in close games, as seven of their last eight games have been decided by one goal. Wednesday night in Laval, Quebec was no different as the Comets tied the score at three in the third period but fell to the Laval Rocket by a score of 4-3.

The Comets entered this game with the eighth-best penalty-killing units in the American Hockey League and the Rocket were twenty-seventh out of thirty-one AHL teams on the powerplay. Those particular stats went out of the window on Wednesday night, as Laval converted on all three of their opportunities with the man advantage. The first of those three powerplay goals opened the scoring at the 4:29 mark of the first period when Jesse Ylonen, playing in his first game back with the Rocket since being reassigned by the Montreal Canadiens, snapped a shot from the slot past by Utica goaltender Nico Daws. The Ylonen goal was the only scoring in the opening frame.

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The second period was full of action as each team registered fifteen shots on goal. The Comets tied the score at one six minutes into the period when Alexander Holtz took a feed from Aarne Talvitie and wired a shot from the left circle past Rocket goaltender Kevin Poulin. Laval answered back three minutes later on the powerplay when Ylonen scored his second goal of the game as he fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Daws with the primary assist going to former New Jersey Devil Jean-Sebastien Dea.

Utica Comets at Laval Rocket Game Preview 01-19-2022

Two minutes after the second Ylonen goal, the Rocket extended their lead to two when Louie Belpedio blasted a one-timer from the point off of a pass from Tory Dello past a screened Daws. With one minute and ten seconds left in the period, the Comets made the score 3-2 when Nate Schnarr barreled down the left side of the Rocket zone and put the puck past Poulin for his eleventh goal of the season.

With momentum on their side, the Comets tied the game at three early in the third when Nolan Foote found Michael Vukojevic charging down the middle of the Laval zone. who went top shelf past Poulin for Utica’s third goal of the game. The teams went back and forth until the Rocket took the lead for good when with four minutes and twenty seconds left Peter Abbandonato scored Laval’s third powerplay goal of the game when ripped a loose puck in the slot into the Utica net. The Comets furiously tried to tie the game in the closing minute, but Poulin stopped a Nolan Foote point-blank chance with one second left to seal the game for the Rocket.

Notes: Utica outshot Laval 32-28…Utica was 0 for 3 on the powerplay, Laval was 3 for 3…Two natives of the City of Laval played in this game, Frederik Gauthier of the Comets and Jean-Sebastien Dea of the Rocket…Michael Vukojevic (one goal and one assist) and Fabian Zetterlund (two assists) led all Utica scorers, Jesse Ylonen (two goals) led all Laval scorers…Nate Schnarr has a three-game goal-scoring streak going for Utica, Nolan Foote has recorded a point in three straight games…Nico Daws made his second straight start in goal for Utica since returning from injury with Mareks Mitens as the backup. Akira Schmid has yet to dress for the Comets since being reassigned to the team on Saturday morning…Utica’s next game is on Friday night at Syracuse, Laval’s next game is on Friday, January 28th at the Texas Stars.

Utica Comets at Laval Rocket Game Preview 01-19-2022

The Utica Comets are in the Province of Quebec on Wednesday night to face the Laval Rocket for the third time this season.

The Utica Comets and Laval Rocket are separated by fourteen points in the AHL North Division standings, but looks can be deceiving as the Rocket has been a much-improved team as of late, posting a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games. Couple this with the 9-3-2-0 record Laval possesses at home makes tonight’s matchup much more precarious for the Comets than it might seem on paper.

For their part, the Comets have been playing with a “patchwork” lineup of sorts over the past few weeks as injuries, illnesses, and callups to the New Jersey Devils have forced Utica to play with multiple recalls from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. Even with the roster turmoil, the Comets have gone 4-3-3 in their last ten games and still have the best winning percentage in the American Hockey League at .788. The Devils are finally getting healthy again, which by extension will help the Comets going forward.

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The Comets and Rocket will meet a total of six times this season. They have already played twice with the Comets winning both games. They won the matchup on November 7th in Utica by a score of 4-2 and then six days they scored a 5-3 victory in Laval. Tonight’s game will take place at Place Bell, which is the home of the Laval Rocket.

The Utica Comets have the best winning percentage in the AHL by playing a well-rounded overall game. They are tied for seventh overall in the league in team goals scored with 104. They are hoping team-leading scorer Chase DeLeo returns to the lineup after missing Saturday night’s game against the Syracuse Crunch. DeLeo has six goals and twenty-one assists for twenty-seven assists in only nineteen games played – he is nineteenth overall in scoring in the American Hockey League. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in goals scored with eleven, followed closely by Nate Schnarr with ten.

The Utica Comets Lose to the Syracuse Crunch in Overtime

The Rocket, like the Comets and just about every team in the AHL, has struggled with roster turmoil and they have struggled overall on offense. They are nineteenth in the league in team offense with ninety-one goals scored. Team-leading scorer Laurent Dauphin is still with the Montreal Canadiens, so left-wing Kevin Roy currently leads the Rocket in points with fifteen (six goals and nine assists). In Dauphin’s absence, Jean-Sebastian Dea leads the team in goals scored with ten.

The Comets goaltending situation was turned upside down in early December when Nico Daws went down with a lower-body injury and Akira Schmid was recalled to the New Jersey Devils. Marek Mitens held down the fort in their absence, but on Saturday night Daws made his return to the lineup, and Schmid was reassigned back to the Comets. Daws started Saturday night’s game against the Syracuse Crunch and played admirably – making thirty-four saves in 4-3 overtime loss (Mitens served as the backup in that game). Mitens has not been reassigned to the Thunder yet, but as long as Daws and Schmid are on the Comets roster, they will get the vast majority of the team’s starts.

The Rocket has experienced the loss of their normal goaltending tandem as well as Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven are still assigned to the Montreal Canadiens. In their absence, Kevin Poulin was called up from Trois Rivieres of the ECHL. Poulin has a record of 2-2-0 with a 2.31 GAA and .927 save percentage. He has been backed up by Louis-Phillip Guindon, who was signed to a PTO by the Rocket and has not played a game for them.

On the powerplay, the Comets are ninth in the American Hockey League, converting 17 of 82 chances good for 20.7%. Utica is the only team in the league with less than one hundred powerplay chances. The offensive struggles of the Rocket mirror their powerplay, as their 16% success rate (16 of 100 opportunities) ranks twenty-seventh in the AHL.

Both the Rocket and the Comets have top ten penalty-killing units. The Rocket is sixth in the AHL, allowing 18 goals on 105 times shorthanded. The Comets are close behind, ranked eighth in the league with an 82.8% success rate. They have allowed 17 goals on 99 times shorthanded.

Wednesday night’s game starts at 7:30 pm EST. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast will be on AHLTV.

Utica Comets vs Laval Rocket game preview

The Utica Comets face the Laval Rocket for the second time in one week on Saturday afternoon.

The Utica Comets will travel to Canada to open their first multi-game road trip of this season, when they face the Rocket on Saturday afternoon at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec. The teams previously squared off on November 7th at the Adirondack Bank Center, with the Comets skating away with a 4-2 victory.

The Comets enter the game with an undefeated record of 8-0-0-0 and sit atop the AHL North Division. The Rocket are currently in fifth place in the same division with a 6-5-1-0 record.

Leading Utica in scoring is Chase DeLeo with twelve points in seven games played. DeLeo missed the Comets last game on Thursday due to being in the Covid protocol according to head Coach Kevin Dineen. It is unknown if DeLeo will be able to play against Laval, but being in the Covid protocol makes it unlikely.

Action from the Rocket vs Comets game on November 7th at the Adirondack Bank Center. Photo credit: Kristy Kinville.

The backbone of the Comets undefeated start continues to be its goaltending. Nico Daws has won all five of his starts and possesses a 2.00 GAA with a .940 save percentage. Like Daws, Akira Schmid has won all of his starts with a 3-0 record to go with a sparkling 1.31 GAA and .953 save percentage. Schmid’s GAA and save percentage rank second in the AHL in both categories. Daws got the start in both the Comets last game and the first game against the Rocket.

Utica Comets win eighth straight game on Thursday

Laval is paced offensively by center Laurent Dauphin, who has twelve points (including eight goals) in twelve games. After Dauphin, defenseman Xavier Ouellet and right wing Jesse Ylonen each have nine points. Ouellet has played in all twelve of Laval’s games, whereas Ylonen has played in ten.

Cayden Primeau serves as the Rocket primary goaltender. His record so far this season is 4-3-0, with a 2.18 GAA and a .921 save percentage, along with two shutouts. Michael McNiven is the other Laval goaltender, and he has a record of 2-2-1 to go with a GAA of 3.47, a save percentage of .878, and one shutout. McNiven took the loss in the first game against Utica.

The Comets and Rocket battle for the puck during their November 7th game at the Adirondack Bank Center. Photo Credit: Kristy Kinville.

Special teams play has also been a strength for the Utica Comets thus far. They rank fifth in the AHL on the power play, with a 25% conversion rate. The Comets continue to have the most successful penalty killing unit in the American Hockey League. They lead the league with a percentage of 89.7.

The Rocket have struggled on the power play in the twelve games the team has played, as their 15.9% ranks them twenty-second in the AHL. Laval’s penalty killing has been the better half of their special teams, where they are seventh in the league with an 84.8% success rate.

Both teams are coming off of victories in their previous games. Utica defeated Syracuse on Thursday afternoon, while Laval won in overtime on Friday night against Bridgeport. The puck drops at 1:00pm on Saturday afternoon, radio coverage on 94.9 K-Rock begins at 12:30 with the pregame show. The television broadcast will be on AHLTV.

Utica Comets win third game in three nights.

The Comets remain undefeated after defeating the Laval Rocket 4-2 on Sunday.

In horse racing terms, the Utica Comets hit the trifecta this weekend. They did so by winning all three games of a rare three games in three consecutive nights stretch. On Friday they defeated Syracuse, Saturday night it was Toronto, and then did the same to Laval on Sunday to complete the weekend sweep. By defeating Laval, the Comets record improves to 7-0-0-0.

The Rocket entered the Adirondack Bank Center on Sunday coming off of a stinging 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Syracuse Crunch the night before. Both teams showed the effects of playing the night before, but as the first period wore on, the Comets seemed to catch their second wind. Neither team would score in the period, but both had chances. Comets starting goaltender Nico Daws stopped a shot by 2021 Hobey Baker Award winner Cole Caufield that labelled for the top of the net, while the Comets could not convert of either of their power play chances.

Action behind the Laval net from Sunday’s game between the Comets and the Rocket. Photo credit: Kristy Kinville.

The Comets would be the first to get on the scoreboard about one and half minutes into the second period. Robbie Russo’s shot from the point banked off of the end boards right to Fabian Zetterlund, who sent a pass across the crease to Tyce Thompson who finished it for his fourth goal of the season. Four and a half minutes later, Laval’s Gabriel Bourque fired a shot at the Comets net that when high and wide and then caromed around the boards. Unfortunately for the Rocket, it went right to the Nate Scharr, who started a three on one rush the other way. Nikita Okhotiuk’s shot was stopped by Laval goaltender Michael McNiven, but Joe Gambardella was there to clean up the rebound to make the score 2-0.

The Rocket began the third period with carryover power play time from separate Comets penalties in the closing minute and a half of the second period. They took advantage of that thirty-eight seconds into the third period when Laurent Dauphin’s pass attempt across the front of the Utica net deflected off of Comets defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon’s stick and into the net, making the score 2-1. The Comets regained their two goal lead at the 7:06 mark when the Rocket gave up another odd man rush that led to Graeme Clarke scoring his second goal of the season.

Action along the boards from Sunday’s Comets vs Rocket game. Photo credit/ Hayiley Doxtader.

To their credit, the Rocket would not quit. They got another goal of their own just over two minutes after the Clarke goal when Jesse Ylonen’s shot snuck past Daws to get Laval within one. They would continue to put pressure on the Comets and pulled McNiven to get an extra skater on. They would pay for that though, as Chase DeLeo sent the puck all the way down the ice, but Jesper Boqvist beat out the icing and deposited the puck into the empty net and sealed a 4-2 victory for Utica.

Notes: Laval outshot Utica 32-27….Laval was 1 for 3 on the power play, Utica was 0 for 2…..Daws made thirty saves to improve his record to 4-0….Forward Luke Stevens made his season debut for the Comets in this game…This was the first of four meetings between these teams, the next one is this Saturday November 13th in Laval….The Comets next game is at home against Syracuse on November 11th, the next game for the Rocket is on November 10th at home against Belleville.

Utica Comets vs Laval Rocket preview

The Comets face another AHL North rival on Sunday.

So far, this season has been a dream come true for the Utica Comets.

With a brand new color scheme and affiliation with the New Jersey Devils, they are off to a 6-0-0-0 start and currently sit in first place in the AHL North Division. A brand new Comets team coached by Kevin Dineen is firing on all cylinders so far in this young season.

This weekend has presented a stiff challenge for the team, however, as they have been tasked with playing three games in three nights. So far, so good for the Comets, as they defeated the Syracuse Crunch on the road Friday night, then downed the Toronto Marlies at home on Saturday night. Up next is another AHL North rival, the Laval Rocket, when they pay a visit to the Adirondack Bank Center on Sunday.

The Rocket enter the game with a 4-4-1-0 record, which puts them in sixth place in the North Division. They are led offense by center Laurent Dauphin, who has eight points so far this season – six of which are goals. They recently received a huge addition to their offensive firepower in the form of Cole Caufield. The 2021 Hobey Baker Award winner, was reassigned to the Rocket by their parent team, the Montreal Canadiens, and will certainly be someone the Comets will need to look out for.

Utica Comets keeps rolling with victory over the Toronto Marlies

In goal, Laval sports a tandem of Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven. Primeau is the teams usual starter, he has a record of 3-3 with a 2.53 GAA and .903 save percentage. In his three games played so far this season, McNiven has a record of 1-1-1 with a 3.47 GAA and a .882 save percentage. Primeau was in net for the Rocket last night, making twenty-two saves in a 4-0 loss, so McNiven is expected to get the start against the Comets.

Center Chase DeLeo leads all Comets scorers with ten points (one goal, nine assists). Although he is in New Jersey now, Alexander Holtz still technically leads the team in goals scored with five. On the current roster, Tyce Thompson, Joe Gambardella, and Aarne Talvitie have each lit the lamp three times to pace the club in goals scored.

Goaltending has been a rock solid component of the Comets hot start so far this season. Both Nico Daws and Akira Schmid sport 3-0 records, with Daws having a 2.34 GAA and a .932 save percentage, while Schmid sports a 1.31 GAA and a save percentage of .953. Schmid made the start in goal for the Comets last night against Toronto, so expect to see Daws back in net on Sunday versus the Rocket.

On special teams, the Rocket power play is operating at a 14.7% efficiency rate, while their penalty kill is at 84.2%. The Comets lead the AHL in both special teams categories, as they are 33.3% on the power play and their penalty kill is at 92%.

The game is scheduled to start at 5pm EST. It will be broadcast on television on WPNY and AHLTV. On the radio, the game will be carried on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). Comets play by play announcer Jason Shaya will be on the call.

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