The game that wasn’t supposed to happen for the Utica Comets until March is on for this Saturday night.
The Utica Comets were originally scheduled to play a game in the state of Connecticut this Saturday, and they still are – just a little further south than they expected.
The Comets were supposed to play the Hartford Wolfpack in the Insurance City on Saturday, but a Covid outbreak amongst the Wolfpack has forced that game to be postponed. Instead, they will travel to the shores of the Long Island Sound to face the Bridgeport Islanders, who are of course the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders.
Bridgeport is coached by Brent Thompson, whose son Tyce started the season in Utica before being recalled to the New Jersey Devils. The elder Thompson’s team has struggled so far, their 6-11-1-2 record has them in seventh place in the AHL Atlantic Division.
The Bridgeport offense is led by forwards Chris Terry and Otto Koivula – both have fifteen points in seventeen games played. Each brings a different facet to the Islanders attack, as Terry leads the team in goals with six while Koivula’s twelve apples lead the club in assists. Overall Bridgeport has scored fifty goals, which ties them for sixteenth overall in the AHL.
Guarding the Bridgeport net are Jakub Skarek and a man that should be familiar to Devils fans – Cory Schneider. Skarek has seen more playing time, in twelve games he has a record of 5-4-2 with a 3.07 GAA and .901 save percentage (he also has one shutout). Schneider has a 1-6 record to go with a GAA of 3.19 and a .904 save percentage. Long-time Utica hockey fans know Bridgeport goaltending coach Chris Terreri, as he played two seasons for the Utica Devils.
For the Utica Comets, a big key to their AHL best 16-1-0-0 record is they have been getting contributions from everyone up and down the lineup. This includes the offense which overall is fourth in the league with sixty-four goals scored, yet has no one in the top twenty of the AHL scoring race. The team’s leading scorer is Chase DeLeo who has fourteen points in only nine games played (had he played in all seventeen of the Comets games we can assume he would be in the top twenty). On the goals scored front, Alexander Holtz and Joe Gambardella lead the way with six each, with Holtz playing in eight games to Gambardella’s fifteen.
If there is one element that has separated the Comets from the league so far this season, it has been the team’s superior goaltending and defensive play. Utica has given up the least amount of goals in the American Hockey League (thirty) and it’s not even close. This can be attributed to coach Kevin Dineen’s defensive scheme and the goaltending of Akira Schmid and Nico Daws.
The numbers the Comets goaltenders have put up are almost like something out of a video game. Schmid is undefeated, has shutouts in his last two games, and his 1.24 GAA and .956 save percentage are both number one in the AHL. Daws isn’t too far off of Schmid’s numbers as he only has one defeat, and is third in the league in both GAA (2.12) and save percentage (.929). Schmid and Daws are tied for second in the AHL lead for wins with eight each.
Overall, the Comets and Islanders are both middle of the pack in power-play efficiency. Utica is thirteenth in the league at 19.6%, and Bridgeport is nineteenth at 17.9%. The Comets have had only fifty-one opportunities with the man advantage, which is the least in the AHL.
While the two teams are close in power-play efficiency, the penalty kill is a different story. Here the Comets have decided advantage as they are tied for the third-best penalty-killing unit in the league at 86.9%. The Islanders, conversely, have struggled to shut down other teams’ power plays. They are twenty-fourth in the AHL at 78.6%.
Gametime from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT is 7:00. Radio coverage begins at 6:30 with the pregame show on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL). The television broadcast will be on AHLTV.