Utica Comets at Cleveland Monsters Preview – 12-22-2022

By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.

Don’t look now, but the Utica Comets are on a roll.

After an up-and-down start to the season, the Comets are officially at the one-third point of the regular season, having played twenty-four of seventy-two regular season games. Utica found itself in last place in the North Division for much of the months of October and November but turned things around in December – winning five of eight games thus far, including their last three straight. Their latest victory came on Tuesday night against the Cleveland Monsters, a team they will face once again on Thursday night. With Tuesday night’s win, the Comets are now within one point of overtaking the Monsters for fourth place in the North Division.

A look at the recent goal-scoring explosion for the Comets: The Utica Comets Offense Is Finding It’s Groove.

The Monsters have found success this season based on their high-powered offense. They rank third in the AHL in goals per game and have the number-one-ranked power play in the league. Their goaltending took a hit on Tuesday however, as Jet Greaves was recalled to the Columbus Blue Jackets on an emergency basis. Greaves had a record of 5-3-2 with a GAA of 4.09 and a 0.883 save percentage for the Monsters this season (he always seems to play well against the Comets). Cleveland has signed goaltender Eric Dop to a PTO to fill the void left by Greaves’s absence.

The high-flying Cleveland offense was on full display in the second period of Tuesday night’s game. They scored three goals on Comets goaltender Akira Schmid, who was playing his first game for the team since November 2nd as he had been with the New Jersey Devils. Two of those Monster’s goals came off the stick of Emil Bemstrom, who is the seventh leading goal scorer in the American Hockey League.

A hallmark of Kevin Dineen-coached teams is resiliency, and after going down 3-0 in this game, the Comets proved just that. The second Bemstrom goal came at the twelve-minute mark, and Utica responded just nine seconds later when Tyce Thompson wired a wrist shot past Cleveland goaltender Pavel Cajan to get the Comets on the board before the end of the period. After the Thompson goal, Utica kept the pressure going by outshooting Cleveland by a six-to-three margin but the score remained 3-1 after forty minutes of play.

The Comet’s resiliency took center stage in the third period, as they dominated the frame – outshooting the Monsters 16-6. They were led by the red-hot Graeme Clarke, who scored two goals to bring his points total to nine in his last eight games. It appeared the game would go to overtime tied at three, but with fourteen seconds remaining another red-hot Comet, Sam Laberge (four goals in his last four games) but a loose puck in the crease into an open Cleveland net to give the Comets a 4-3 victory.

Sole possession of the fourth place in the North Division is on the line when these teams again on Thursday night at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Let’s take a look at how the teams match up against each other.

Utica Comets Records

  • Head Coach: Kevin Dineen.
  • Overall: 11-9-3-1, 26 points.
  • Place: 5th in the North Division.
  • Away: 5-5-1-0, 9 points.

Cleveland Monsters Records

  • Head Coach Trent Vogelhuber.
  • Overall: 12-10-1-2, 27 points.
  • Place: 4th in the North Division.
  • Home: 6-4-1-0, 13 points.

Utica Comets Team Offense

  • Goals For: 77 (21st in the AHL).
  • Goals Per Game: 3.21 (16th in the AHL).
  • Shots: 712.
  • Shots Per Game: 29.67 (22nd in AHL).
  • Power Play: 21.8% (17 for 78 – 11th in the AHL).

Cleveland Monsters Team Offense

  • Goals For: 95 (tied for 8th in the AHL).
  • Goals Per Game: 3.80 (3rd in the AHL)
  • Shots: 788.
  • Shots Per Game: 31.12 (12th in the AHL).
  • Power Play: 33.0% (31 for 94 – 1st in the AHL).

Utica Comets Top Five Scorers

1.) Brian Pinho: 8 goals + 10 assists = 18 points.

2.) Graeme Clarke: 7 goals + 10 assists = 17 points.

3.) Nolan Stevens: 7 goals + 8 assists = 15 points.

4.) Reilly Walsh: 2 goals + 12 assists = 14 points.

5.) Nolan Foote: 9 goals + 4 assists = 13 points.

Shots Leader: Graeme Clarke with 60.

Game Winning Goals Leader: Tyce Thompson and Graeme Clarke with 2 each.

Power Play Goals Leader: Nolan Stevens and Brian Pinho with 3 each.

Cleveland Monsters Top Five Scorers

1.) Emil Bemstrom: 14 goals + 15 assists = 29 points. Bemstrom is 7th in the AHL in goals and 11th in points.

2.) Trey Fix-Wolansky: 12 goals + 17 assists = 29 points. Fix-Wolansky is 12th in the AHL in points, 15th in goals, and 18th in assists.

3.) Brendan Gaunce: 7 goals + 11 assists = 18 points.

4.) Justin Richards: 6 goals + 12 assists = 18 points.

5.) David Jiricek: 4 goals + 14 assists = 18 points. Jiricek is 11th in the AHL among defensemen in points.

Shots Leader: Trey Fix-Wolansky with 80. Fix-Wolansky is 14th in the AHL in shots.

Game Winning Goals Leader: Emil Bemstrom with 3.

Power Play Goals Leader: Emil Bemstrom with 8. Bemstrom is tied for 3rd in the AHL in power-play goals.

Utica Comets Team Defense

Goals Against: 73 (9th in the AHL).

Goals Against Per Game: 3.17 (17th in the AHL).

Shots Allowed: 694.

Shots Allowed Per Game: 28.92 (5th in the AHL).

Penalty Kill: 75.0% (57 for 76 – 26th in the AHL).

Shorthanded Goals Scored: 3 (17th in the AHL).

Cleveland Monsters Team Defense

  • Goals Against: 98 (28th in the AHL).
  • Goals Against Per Game: 4.08 (32nd in the AHL).
  • Shot Allowed: 769.
  • Shots Allowed Per Game: 32.04 (26th in the AHL).
  • Penalty Kill: 71.1% (69 for 97 – 30th in the AHL).
  • Shorthanded Goals Scored: 2 (23rd in the AHL).

Utica Comets Goaltending

  • Nico Daws has a record of 6-6-1, with a GAA of 2.67, and a 0.905 save percentage. Daws is 19th in the AHL in GAA>
  • Akira Schmid has a record of 3-1-1, with a GAA of 1.97, and a 0.918 save percentage.

Cleveland Monsters Goaltending

  • Pavel Cajan has a record of 4-5-1, with a GAA of 3.41 and a 0.883 save percentage.
  • Eric Dop has no record in the AHL this season.

Thursday night’s game is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm EST. Radio coverage will be on 94.9 K-Rock and the television broadcast will be on AHLTV. For more information about Utica Comets hockey, visit https://uticacomets.com.

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