By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.
The Utica Comets are continuing their Canadian road trip on Friday and Saturday afternoon in Laval, Quebec as they face North Division rival the Laval Rocket to close out the six games the teams are scheduled to play in the regular season. The Rocket has been a major obstacle for the Comets thus far this season, as Laval has won all four games they have played so far.
In a familiar theme, the Comets are once again experiencing some roster turmoil. Captian Ryan Schmelzer was injured on Sunday at Lehigh Valley and did not play in Utica’s last game – a 4-3 loss at Belleville on Wednesday night. Also missing are forwards Nolan Stevens, who has been out of the lineup since February 1st, and Nick Hutchinson who is out indefinitely. Goaltender Nico Daws has not played since March 1st, prompting the recalls of Issac Poulter and then Jake Theut from Adirondack of the ECHL.
The recalls continued on Friday, as the New Jersey Devils recalled Nolan Foote and his eighteen goals on the season. In a corresponding move, the Comets called up forward Patrick Grasso from Adirondack. Grasso is having a good season with the Thunder – in fifty-three games he has twenty-seven goals and eighteen assists for forty-five points.
The Comets are 6-3-1-0 in their last ten games but have lost two in a row.
Like the Comets, the Rocket have lost their last two games, but they are 4-5-0-1 in their last ten games. They are a much better team at home than they are on the road, as they have a record of 14-6-5-3 record at Place Bell. Friday night’s game against Utica kicks off a four-game homestand for Laval.
The calling card for the Laval Rocket is the team’s prolific offense. They lead the AHL in shots per game and shorthanded goals and are fourth in the league in goals per game. Team leading scorer Anthony Richard was recalled to the Montreal Canadiens on March 9th however, so they will be missing a key component of that offense for the time being.
The Laval Rocket are in sixth place in the North Division and are in a battle along with the Comets for one of the four remaining playoff spots remaining (assuming Toronto will clinch one of the five overall spots soon). The difference between second and seventh places in the North is a mere nine points, and the Rocket is one point behind fifth-place Belleville. Every point in the standings is crucial at this point in the season, and four gigantic points are on the line in this two-game series. Let’s take a look at how the Utica Comets and Laval Rocket match up against each other.
Utica Comets Team Records
- Overall Record: 29-22-6-2, 66 points – 2nd place in the North Division.
- Away Record: 15-13-3-0, 33 points.
- Goal Differntial: +1.
- Head Coach: Kevin Dineen.
Laval Rocket Team Records
- Overall Record: 24-25-7-3, 58 points – 6th in the North Division.
- Home Record: 14-6-5-3, 36 points.
- Goal Differential: -8.
- Head Coach: Jean-François Houle.
Utica Comets Team Offense
- Goals For: 179 (19th in the AHL).
- Goals Per Game: 3.03 (22nd in the AHL).
- Shots: 1,725.
- Shots Per Game: 29.24 (26th in the AHL).
- Power Play: 16.5% (32 for 194 – 30th in the AHL).
Laval Rocket Team Offense
- Goals For: 205 (5th in the AHL).
- Goals Per Game: 3.47 (4th in the AHL).
- Shots: 2,006.
- Shots Per Game: 34.00 (1st in the AHL).
- Power Play: 21.8% (56 for 257 – 9th in the AHL).
Utica Comets Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Graeme Clarke: 21 goals + 26 assists = 47 points.
2.) Joe Gambardella: 9 goals + 22 assists = 31 points.
3.) Reilly Walsh: 4 goals + 26 assists = 30 points.
4.) Ryan Schmelzer: 5 goals + 23 assists = 28 points.
5.) Brian Halonen: (15 goals + 12 assists) and Nolan Stevens (12 goals + 15 assists) = 27 points each.
- Shots Leader: Graeme Clarke with 168. Clarke is 12th in the AHL in shots.
- Power Play Goals Leaders: Brian Pinho and Brian Halonen with four each.
- Game Winning Goals Leader: Graeme Clarke with five. Clarke is 14th in the AHL in game-winning goals.
- +/- Leader: Simon Nemec at +13.
- PIM Leader: Mason Geertsen with 112. Geertsen is 6th in the AHL in PIM.
Laval Rocket Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Peter Abbandonato: 11 goals + 30 assists = 41 points.
2.) Jöel Teasdale: 20 goals + 13 assists = 33 points.
3.) Brandon Gignac: 11 goals + 19 assists = 30 points.
4.) Xavier Simoneau: 5 goals + 24 assists = 29 points.
5.) Mitchell Stephens: 13 goals + 14 assists = 27 points.
- Shots Leader: Peter Abbandonato with 131.
- Power Play Goals Leader: Jöel Teasdale with ten. Teasdale is 11th in the AHL in power-play goals.
- Game Winning Goals Leader: Jöel Teasdale with four.
- +/- Leader: Corey Schueneman at +11.
- PIM Leader: Riley McKay with 86.
Utica Comets Team Defense
- Goals Against: 178 (13th in the AHL).
- Goals Against Per Game: 3.02 (16th in the AHL).
- Shots Allowed: 1,689.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 28.63 (5th in the AHL).
- Penalty Kill: 77.0% (137 for 178 – 28th in the AHL).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: six (18th in the AHL).
Laval Rocket Team Defense
- Goals Against: 213 (28th in the AHL).
- Goals Against Per Game: 3.61 (28th in the AHL).
- Shots Allowed: 1,854.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 31.42 (26th in the AHL).
- Penalty Kill: 74.7% (177 for 237 – 31st in the AHL).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: twelve (first in the AHL).
Utica Comets Goaltenders
- Nico Daws: Record: 14-12-2 / GAA: 2.53 / Save Percentage: 0.901 / Saves: 711 / Shutouts: 0. Daws is 19th in the AHL in wins.
- Issac Poulter: Record: 4-2-3 / GAA: 3.50 / Save Percentage: 0.881 / Saves: 238 / Shutouts: 0.
- Jake Theut: Record: 0-1-0 / GAA: 3.14 / Save Percentage: 0.906 / Saves: 29 / Shutouts: 0.
Laval Rocket Goaltenders
- Cayden Primeau: Record: 12-11-6 / GAA: 3.21 / Save Percentage: 0.904 / Saves: 885 / Shutouts: 1.
- Kevin Poulin: Record: 10-12-3 / GAA: 3.19 / Save Percentage: 0.888 / Saves: 636 / Shutouts: 0.
- Philippe Desrosiers: Record: 0-1-1 / GAA: 4.70 / Save Percentage: 0.836 / Saves: 46 / Shutouts: 0.
Friday night’s game is scheduled to begin at 7 pm EDT and Saturday afternoon’s contest will start at 3 pm. Radio coverage will be on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL) and the television broadcast is on AHLTV. For more information about the Utica Comets, including ticketing and schedules, visit https://uticacomets.com.
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