The Utica Comets Offense Is Finding It’s Groove

Photo credit: Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.

By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.

Going into this season, one of the big question marks for the Utica Comets was “where are the goals going to come from”?

Fabian Zetterlund, Alexander Holtz, Chase DeLeo, and AJ Greer accounted for nearly forty percent of the team’s goals in 2021-22 and they would not return. To help replace them, Brian Pinho, Zach Senyshyn, and Jack Dugan were brought in via free agency along with defenseman Simon Nemec – the number two overall draft pick by the New Jersey Devils in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. All are fine players, but missing forty percent of a team’s offense from the season before is still a staggering number.

Through October and November, it appeared the concerns about a potential lack of offense were valid. The Comets played five full games in October (the “lights out” game is not counted for this purpose) and scored a total of eleven goals – which averages out to 2.2 goals per game. To break it down even further, five of those goals came in one game against Cleveland on October 28th.

In November, the Comet’s offense was consistent but not spectacular. They scored at least two goals in all eleven games they played that month, but scored more than three only once – that was in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Laval Rocket at home on November 11th. Despite scoring a total of thirty goals in November, Utica averaged a very pedestrian 2.7 goals per game for the month.

With a new month, came an offensive explosion by the Comets. They have already matched last month’s goal total of thirty in only seven games played in December for an average of 4.3 goals per game. Overall, they have moved from a bottom-half team league-wide in goals per game to a tie for fifteenth place with Manitoba at 3.17. For perspective, the Calgary Wranglers and Cleveland Monsters lead the American Hockey League in goals per game at 3.96.

Let’s Take a Closer Look

So we’ve established the Utica Comets have been much better offensively during the month of December. Let’s take a look at some of the team and individual numbers that have been driving this goal-scoring explosion.

  • The power play is operating at a 23.5% success rate (4 for 17) in the month of December. Overall, the Comets are 20.5% with the man advantage which is twelfth in the AHL.

The goals to shots breakdown by period for the month of December:

  • First Period: 9 goals on 76 shots.
  • Second Period: 6 goals on 56 shots.
  • Third Period: 15 goals on 60 shots.

It’s safe to say the Comets like the first period, but love the third period.

The following individuals have had a red-hot December so far:

  • The hottest of all the Comets in the month of December has been Nolan Stevens. He has six goals and two assists in the month including a four-game goal-scoring streak.
  • Team leading scorer Brian Pinho is in a goal-scoring drought, going goalless in his past eleven games. While he hasn’t been scoring goals lately, he has made up for it with assists – dishing out six of them in the past seven games.
  • Graeme Clarke is one of the players that was expected to help fill the void on offense this season. After recording five points (two goals and three assists) in ten games in November, Clarke is heating up this month. He already has two goals and four assists in December.
  • After missing time due to an injury earlier in the season, Joe Gambardella has been a big part of the Comet’s offensive resurgence this month. Of the eight points he has registered this season, six of them (three goals and three assists) have come in December.

A big factor in the success of the Utica Comets last season was their ability to get the defensemen involved in the offense. In the month of December, they have had two defensemen put up outstanding point totals so far.

  • Simon Nemec has been having an outstanding December so far. The eighteen-year-old is at a point-per-game pace for the month – putting up two goals and five assists in seven games. Unfortunately, the Comets will be losing him for a few weeks soon as he has been selected to play for Team Slovakia in the upcoming World Junior Championship.
  • Tyler Wotherspoon had been struggling on offense prior to the twelfth month of the year. Through October and November, he had one assist to his credit. Since the start of December, he has has two goals and four assists to go with a +/- rating of +13.

The Comets have five games remaining in the month of December. They play two games at Cleveland, one at Rochester, then return home for games against Lehigh Valley and then Belleville on New Year’s Eve. How long will this pace on offense keep up? Time will tell, but for the Utica Comets, it shows they may have answered the “where are the goals going to come from” question.

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