Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators 04-06-2022 Three Observations

The Utica Comets took on the Belleville Senators at the Adirondack Bank Center on Martin Brodeur night with playoff implications on the line.

There was a buzz in the air on Wednesday night when the Utica Comets faced the Belleville Senators. The Comets entered the game needing five points to clinch a playoff spot (and only nine for the division title), and there was a certain legendary Hall of Fame goaltender in the building that was to be honored throughout the game. It also helped the home team was playing a team they had not lost to all season long, as the Comets defeated the Senators in all three of their previous meetings.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators Game Preview 04-06-2022

When the puck dropped to open the game, the electricity in the building continued. It took less than five minutes for a fight to break out, as Utica’s Pat McGrath and Belleville’s Scott Sabourin dropped the gloves at the 3:11 mark. It was a precursor of things to come, as the Senators employed a physical and aggressive forecheck against the Comets all game long. After Utica took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Chase DeLeo, Belleville tied the score with less than four minutes left in the frame on a tally by Egor Sokolov. The first period ended in a 1-1 tie, but Utica goaltender Akira Schmid saw a lot of action, as the visitors outshot the home team by a margin of 15-8.

Pat McGrath of the Utica Comets and Scott Sabourin of the Belleville Senators drop the gloves. Video credit: Scott Kinville.

Belleville took the lead early in the second period when Roby Jarventie sent a centering pass from behind the Utica goal line to Logan Shaw who beat Schmid from the slot. Utica answered back when Michael Vukojevic sent a shot from the left point that was redirected by Nolan Foote past Senators goaltender Filip Gustavsson to tie the game. It wouldn’t last as with less than minutes to go in the second period, the Senators took the lead yet again on another goal from the slot, this time by Colby Williams to give Belleville a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.

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With their backs against the wall, the Comets were able to break through and tie the game in the third period. Chase DeLeo took control of the puck behind the Belleville net and found Alexander Holtz who beat Gustavsson with a shot from about fifteen feet in front of the net. The 3-3 score would hold through the end of the period, and an already buzzing crowd got even more excited when the Comets opened the overtime period on a two-minute power play. To the crowd’s chagrin, the home team could not take advantage, and after killing the penalty Belleville got a goal from Logan Shaw with 1:33 left to win the game and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Now that the game is in the books, here are three observations from a big night at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Utica loves Martin Brodeur.

It’s safe to say that Martin Brodeur is one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. Before going on to win three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies with the New Jersey Devils, he played with the Utica Devils of the AHL during the 1992-93 season. The fans did not forget, and the organization rolled out the red carpet for “Martin Brodeur Night” as every fan received a Brodeur bobblehead, the legend himself dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff, and his career and accomplishments were highlighted all night long. Even though the end result was not what the team and their fans wanted, it was still a special night for all involved.

Martin Brodeur drops the puck for the ceremonial opening face off for Wednesday night’s game. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

Next man up.

The New Jersey Devils have been hit with a wave of injuries yet again, and it affects the Utica Comets. Already missing Frederik Gauthier and Jeremy Groleau due to injuries, it was announced about two hours prior to the start of Wednesday night’s game that Fabian Zetterlund and AJ Greer had been recalled to New Jersey. How long they will be there remains to be seen (on Saturday the Devils begin a ten-day road trip) but it is certainly a blow to the Comets for the immediate future, as Zetterlund and Greer are numbers one and two on the team’s scoring list and are major sparkplugs both on and off the ice.

A Look at the AHL Central Division

This is not however entirely surprising as NHL callups from Utica were expected in the month of April anyways, but for the Comets to have a strong finish to the regular season, it will have to be a “next man up” mentality going forward. The good news is the Comets got Nolan Foote back on Wednesday night after missing ten games with an injury and made an immediate impact – recording a goal and an assist. Two key players that have been in a slump as of late also got on the scoresheet against Belleville. Alexander Holtz, who had scored one goal in his ten games prior to Wednesday night, scored his twenty-third goal of the season. Reilly Walsh, the young defenseman who is such a big part of Utica’s transition game and power play had just one goal and one assist in his past fifteen games going into Wednesday night. He recorded a power-play assist in this game which will hopefully for Utica be the start of many more. With the current roster upheaval, the Comets will need Holtz and Walsh now more than ever.

The Comet’s opponents will continue to be desperate.

The Belleville Senators came into Wednesday night’s game in sixth place in the North Division, and just barely out of a playoff spot. They played an aggressive game you would expect from a team with desperate urgency to make the playoffs and were rewarded with a victory for their efforts. The Comets can expect to see this for the rest of the season.

A Look at the AHL Pacific Division

With a magic number of two and nine games remaining, the Utica Comets are going to make the playoffs (their magic number went down three points as a result of other games). The rest of the North Division, however, is still a very tight battle for the remaining four playoff births, and eight of Utica’s remaining nine games are against North Division opponents. Everyone in the division still has a chance to get into the playoffs, and the Comets can expect a desperate effort from all of their opponents going forward as they did from the Senators on Wednesday night.

The Comets could possibly clinch a playoff spot this weekend, as they play at Belleville on Friday night, and at a surging Laval Rocket on Saturday afternoon. Radio coverage will be on 94.9 K-Rock, and the television broadcasts will be on AHLTV. For the latest updates on the Utica Comet’s magic numbers please visit the daily playoff primer at https://theahl.com.

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!
Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast: By the Fans, For the Fans.

Utica Comets vs Belleville Senators Game Preview 04-06-2022

The Utica Comets can take a huge step towards securing a playoff spot on Wednesday night when they take on the Belleville Senators at home in front of an NHL goaltending legend.

The Utica Comets (39-16-6-1, 85 points, 0.685 points percentage, 1st place in the Eastern Conference) are pulling out all the stops on Wednesday night. With their magic number at five to secure a playoff spot, they face the team that sits in sixth place in the North Division and affects that number the most – the Belleville Senators (31-25-4-0, 66 points, 0.550 points percentage). In the crowd will be a man who knows a little something about playoff success, as three-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur returns to Utica for the first time since he played for the Utica Devils in 1993.

With games against the Senators at home on Wednesday night and at Belleville on Friday night; as well as a Saturday afternoon game against the Laval Rocket, the Comets are in a fantastic position to not only secure a playoff birth but also make huge strides toward securing the North Division title as well. They may have to do it without some of their regulars, as the New Jersey Devils have suffered yet another rash of injuries. They have lost Jack Hughes for the season, Nathan Bastian is considered to be day-to-day, while Jimmy Vesey and Yegor Sharangovich suffering injuries during Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers as well. It was expected that a few Comets players would “get a look” in New Jersey at some point in April, time will tell if these injuries accelerate the process.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at the “tale of the tape” for Wednesday night’s game between the Belleville Senators and Utica Comets.

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Offense

The Utica Comets are third overall in the American Hockey League in total goals scored with 218. At home, they have scored 108 goals, which ranks sixth in the AHL. Leading the Comets in scoring are:

  1. Fabian Zetterlund: 24 goals and 28 assists = 52 points. He is 16th in the AHL in goals and 13th in shots.
  2. AJ Greer: 22 goals and 28 assists = 50 points.
  3. Chase DeLeo: 15 goals and 32 assists = 47 points.
  4. Alexander Holtz: 22 goals and 22 assists = 44 points. He is 4th among AHL rookies in goals, 9th in points, 10th in shots, and 16th in assists.
  5. Reilly Walsh: 7 goals and 29 assists = 36 points. He is 10th in points and assists among AHL defensemen.

Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in shots with 175 and game-winning goals with seven. Among AHL leaders, he is thirteenth in shots and fourth in game-winning goals.

A Look at the AHL Central Division

The Belleville Senators are twentieth in the American Hockey League in total goals scored with 183. On the road, they have scored 93 goals, which is the twelfth most in the league. The Senators leading scorers are:

  1. Jake Lucchini: 19 goals and 23 assists = 43 points.
  2. Egor Sokolov: 17 goals and 24 assists = 41 points.
  3. Zach Senyshyn: 19 goals and 14 assists = 33 points.
  4. Andrew Agozzino: 16 goals and 16 assists = 32 points.
  5. Roby Jarventie: 11 goals and 20 assists = 31 points.

Lucchini leads the Senators in shots with 143 followed closely by Agozzino with 139. Senyshyn leads the team in game-winning goals with five.

Defense/Goaltending

The Comets are sixth in the AHL in total goals allowed, yielding 169 so far this season. At home, they are fifth in the league, where they have allowed 81 goals. The Utica goaltending tandem is made up of:

  • Akira Schmid has a record of 20-7-3 with a GAA of 2.48, a 0.915 save percentage, and two shutouts. He 7th in the AHL in wins, 11th in wins, and 13th in both save percentage and shutouts.
  • Mareks Mitens has a record 7-6-2 with a GAA of 3.15 and a 0.895 save percentage.

Defensemen Tyler Wotherspoon is third in the American Hockey League in +/- with a +25.

A Look at the AHL Pacific Division

The Senators have allowed a total of 185 goals, which is fourteenth in the American Hockey League. On the road, they have yielded 92 goals – which ranks eleventh. With Mads Sogaard currently with the Ottawa Senators, the Belleville goaltenders are:

  • Filip Gustavsson has a record of 5-4-1, with a GAA of 2.54, 0.911 save percentage, and one shutout.
  • Kevin Mandolese has a record of 9-5-0 with a GAA of 3.12 and a 0.901 save percentage.
  • Michael McNiven has a record of 4-4-2 with a GAA of 4.01, 0.871 save percentage, and one shutout.

Power Play

With their prolific offense, it’s no surprise the Utica Comets are fourth overall in the league on the power play, converting 46 of 196 opportunities for a success rate of 23.5%. At home, they are thirteenth in the AHL on the power play, scoring 21 goals in 100 chances for a success rate of 21%. Fabian Zetterlund leads the team in power play goals with eight, followed by Alexander Holtz with six and AJ Greer with five. Robbie Russo and Chase DeLeo leads the Comets in assists on the power play with thirteen followed closely by Reilly Walsh with twelve. Zetterlund and DeLeo lead in overall power play points with seventeen each.

Belleville ranks twentieth in the AHL on the power play, converting 45 of 232 overall chances for a success rate of 19.4%. On the road they are eleventh overall, where they have scored 23 goals on 113 opportunities for a success rate of 20.4%. Lassi Thomson and Jake Lucchini lead the Senators in power play goals with six each, followed closely by Egor Sokolov, Mark Kastelic, and Zach Senyshyn with five each. Zac Leslie leads the team in power play assists with eleven, followed by Roby Jaeventie with nine, and Sokolov with eight. Sokolov leads the Senators in overall power play points with thirteen, followed closely by Leslie and Jarventie with twelve each.

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!

Penalty Kill

Utica is tenth overall in the AHL on the penalty kill, yielding 36 goals in the 197 overall times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 81.7%. At home, they have been dominant, allowing only 12 goals in the 98 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 87.8% – which is the second best in the league. They have also scored eleven shorthanded goals, which is the third most in the AHL. AJ Greer leads the team in shorthanded goals scored with four.

Belleville has been outstanding on the penalty kill this season, as they have allowed only 40 goals in the 250 overall times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 84.0% – ranking them third in the league. On the road, they are sixth in the AHL – yielding 21 goals in the 130 times they have been shorthanded for a success rate of 83.8%. The Senators have also scored nine shorthanded goals this season, led by Cole Reinhardt who has three of them.

Wednesday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT. Radio coverage begins with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL), while the television broadcast begins at 7:00 on WPNY and AHLTV.

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