By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.
To say this weekend’s home-in-home series between the Utica Comets and the Rochester Americans is important would be an understatement. The teams are separated by one point in the North Division standings with the Comets holding down second place with 71 points and the Americans occupying fourth place with 70 points. The top five teams in the division will make the Calder Cup Playoffs and neither team is guaranteed a spot yet, as the sixth-place Laval Rocket and seventh-place Belleville Senators are still within striking distance and 64 and 62 points respectively.
The two-game set between the Comets and Americans begins on Friday night in Utica, and the scene shifts to Rochester on Saturday evening for the conclusion. The teams have played each other seven times so far in the regular season with the Americans winning four of those games – including the last contest on Saturday in which they were victorious in the shootout 1-0. Including this weekend, the two teams will play each three more times before the regular season concludes.
The Utica Comets deliver a special jersey: Little Falls Student Gets a Utica Comets Surprise
The Comets are 5-4-0-1 in their last ten games but have lost three of their last five. Complicating matters is the offense has suddenly dried up, as they have scored just one goal in their last two games. To get the offense back on track, Utica will need to get the power play going. They are currently 31st in the AHL with the man advantage, operating overall at just 16.3%, and have two power-play goals in their last fifteen opportunities. With just eight regular season games remaining, Head Coach Kevin Dineen’s team will need to figure it out in a hurry.
The good news is Utica is getting Nolan Foote back, as the New Jersey Devils reassigned him back to the team on Friday afternoon. Another new face will be joining the Comets as well, as indicated by the tweet below.
The Americans enter the weekend series having won three of their last five games, and are 4-3-1-2 in their last ten overall. Rochester is five points ahead of the fifth-place Cleveland Monsters in the division standings, and like the Comets, needs points out of these games for some much-needed breathing room in the playoff race.
Rochester was still without second-leading scorer Brandon Biro as of their last game on Wednesday night against Cleveland due to an injury. Biro has been out of the lineup since March 17th, but they did welcome back team-leading scorer Lukas Rousek on Wednesday night after his brief recall to the Buffalo Sabres.
It’s as tight as it gets in the North Division playoff chase, let’s take a look at how the Utica Comets and Rochester Americans match up against each other for this ultra important home in home series.
Utica Comets Team Records
- Overall Record: 31-24-6-3, 71 points – 2nd place in the North Division.
- Home Record: 15-9-3-3, 36 points.
- Away Record: 16-15-3-0, 35 points.
- Goal Differential: -6.
- Head Coach: Kevin Dineen.
Rochester Americans Team Records
- Overall Record: 31-25-5-3, 70 points – 4th place in the North Division.
- Home Record: 17-11-3-1, 38 points.
- Away Record: 14-14-2-2, 32 points.
- Goal Differential: -3.
- Head Coach: Seth Appert.
Utica Comets Team Offense
- Goals For: 188 (27th in the AHL).
- Goals Per Game: 2.94 (27th in the AHL).
- Shots: 1,860.
- Shots Per Game: 29.06 (27th in the AHL).
- Power Play: 16.3% (34 for 209 – 31st in the AHL).
Rochester Americans Team Offense
- Goals For: 207 (9th in the AHL).
- Goals Per Game: 3.23 (10th in the AHL).
- Shots: 1,864.
- Shots Per Game: 29.13 (26th in the AHL).
- Power Play: 20.9% (49 for 234 – 12th in the AHL).
Utica Comets Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Graeme Clarke: 21 goals + 29 assists = 50 points.
2.) Reilly Walsh: 6 goals + 29 assists = 35 points.
3.) Joe Gambardella: 9 goals + 23 assists = 32 points.
4.) Nolan Foote: 18 goals + 12 assists = 30 points.
5.) Brian Halonen: 17 goals + 13 assists = 30 points.
- Shots Leader: Graeme Clarke with 186. Clarke is 9th in the AHL in shots.
- Power Play Goals Leader: Brian Halonen with 5.
- Game-Winning Goals Leader: Nolan Foote and Graeme Clarke with 5 each (they are 12th and 18th in the AHL respectively).
- +/- Leader: Jeremy Groleau at +13.
- PIM Leader: Mason Geertsen with 129. Geertsen is 6th in the AHL in PIM.
Rochester Americans Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Lukas Rousek: 15 goals + 36 assists = 51 points. Rousek is 19th in the AHL in assists.
2.) Brandon Biro: 15 goals + 35 assists = 50 points. Biro is 20th in the AHL in assists.
3.) Brett Murray: 21 goals + 22 assists = 43 points.
4.) Jiri Kulich: 22 goals + 20 assists = 42 points.
5.) Linus Weissbach (18 goals + 22 assists) + Michael Mersch (15 goals + 25 assists) = 40 points each.
- Shots Leader: Jiri Kulich with 144.
- Power Play Goals Leader: Brett Murray with 8.
- Game Winning Goals Leader: Linus Weissbach with 4.
- +/- Leader: Brandon Biro at +5.
- PIM Leader: Jeremy Davies with 86.
Utica Comets Team Defense
- Goals Against: 194 (14th in the AHL).
- Goals Against Per Game: 3.03 (15th in the AHL).
- Shots Allowed: 1,866.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 29.16 (7th in the AHL).
- Penalty Kill: 77.6% (149 for 192 – 27th in the AHL).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: 6 (19th in the AHL).
Rochester Americans Team Defense
- Goals Against: 210 (22nd in the AHL).
- Goals Against Per Game: 3.28 (22nd in the AHL).
- Shots Allowed: 1,958.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 30.59 (19th in the AHL).
- Penalty Kill: 80.9% (169 for 209 – 17th in the AHL).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: 4 (27th in the AHL).
Utica Comets Goaltenders
- Nico Daws: Record: 14-12-3 / GAA: 2.72 / Save Percentage: 0.905 / Saves: 746 / Shutouts: 1.
- Akira Schmid: Record: 10-6-3 / GAA: 2.53 / Save Percentage: 0.908 / Saves: 484 / Shutouts: 2.
- Issac Poulter: Record: 6-3-3 / GAA: 3.60 / Save Percentage: 0.883 / Saves: 316 / Shutouts: 0.
Rochester Americans Goaltenders
- Malcolm Subban: Record: 17-13-4 / GAA: 2.97 / Save Percentage: 0.902 / Saves: 933 / Shutouts: 2. Subban is 15th in the AHL in shutouts.
- Michael Houser: Record: 7-7-2 / GAA: 2.83 / Save Percentage: 0.906 / Saves: 461 / Shutouts: 1.
Friday night’s game in Utica is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm EDT, while Saturday’s matchup in Rochester will start at 5:05 pm EDT. Radio coverage will be on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL) and the television broadcast will be on AHLTV. For more information about the Utica Comets including tickets and schedules, visit https://uticacomets.com.
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