By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.
The Utica Comets will host the Syracuse Crunch for the twelfth time this season on Sunday afternoon at the Adirondack Bank Center in a matchup of two teams heading in opposite directions. Syracuse leads this season’s series, winning seven of eleven games between the two teams.
After riding high in the North Division since having a dominant December into January, the Comets suddenly find themselves slipping down the standings. Entering Sunday’s game, they find themselves in fourth place, ahead of fifth-place Laval by only four points and Belleville as well as Cleveland by seven points. The top five teams in the division will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs with the top three receiving a first-round bye and the fourth and fifth-place teams facing each other in a best-of-three series for the right to play the division winner in the quarterfinals.
The Utica Comets will wear a special jersey on Sunday: Little Falls Student Gets a Utica Comets Surprise.
Exacerbating the Comet’s slide is they have lost seven of their last nine games and four in a row (although they earned a point in two of those losses). The offense has dried up during this stretch, as they have averaged 2.1 goals scored per game while giving up 3.7 during this time. Consequently, the power play has left something to be desired over the past nine games as well. Utica has scored just three goals in twenty-six opportunities with the man advantage during that time, operating at an 11.5% conversion rate.
The Crunch have been a streaky team this season, and just so happen to be riding a winning streak going into Sunday’s game. After losing seven of their first eleven games in March, Syracuse has rebounded by winning their past three consecutive games. With the victories, the Crunch have vaulted into second place in the North Division with 74 points. The Crunch have seven regular season games remaining and all are against the Comets, Rochester Americans, and Laval Rocket – teams that are currently in the top five of the North Division standings and battling for first-round byes.
The Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch are bitter rivals no matter the time of the season, throw in a tight playoff race and that rivalry goes to the next level. Let’s take a look at how the two teams match up against each other.
Utica Comets Team Records
- Overall Record: 31-25-6-4, 72 points – 4th place in the North Division.
- Home Record: 15-9-3-4, 37 points.
- Point Differential: -9.
- Head Coach: Kevin Dineen.
Syracuse Crunch Team Records
- Overall Record: 33-24-5-3, 74 points – 2nd in North Division.
- Away Record: 16-14-0-2, 34 points.
- Goal Differential: +16.
- Head Coach: Ben Groulx.
Utica Comets Team Offense
- Goals For: 193 (25th in the AHL).
- Goals Per Game: 2.92 (26th in the AHL).
- Shots: 1,923.
- Shots Per Game: 29.14 (26th in the AHL).
- Power Play: 16.0% (34 for 213 – 31st in the AHL).
Syracuse Crunch Team Offense
- Goals For: 227 (5th in the AHL).
- Goals Per Game: 3.49 (5th in the AHL).
- Shots: 2,081.
- Shots Per Game: 32.02 (4th in the AHL).
- Power Play: 18.4% (40 for 217 – 20th in the AHL).
Utica goaltender Issac Poulter (left) and Syracuse netminder Hugo Alnefelt (right) make saves during the March 5th, 2023 game at the Adirondack Bank Center. Photo credits Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.
Utica Comets Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Graeme Clarke: 22 goals + 29 assists = 51 points.
2.) Reilly Walsh: 7 goals + 29 assists = 36 points.
3.) Joe Gambardella: 9 goals + 24 assists = 33 points.
4.) Nolan Foote: 19 goals + 13 assists = 32 points.
5.) Ryan Schmelzer: 5 goals + 26 assists = 31 points.
- Shots Leader: Graeme Clarke with 191. Clarke is 8th in the AHL.
- Power Play Goals Leader: Brian Halonen with five.
- Game Winning Goals Leader: Nolan Foote and Graeme Clarke with five each. Foote and Clarke are 12th and 18th in the AHL in game-winning goals.
- +/- Leader: Jeremy Groleau at +14.
- PIM Leader: Mason Geertsen with 129. Geertsen is 6th in the AHL in PIM.
Syracuse Crunch Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Alex Barré-Boulet: 23 goals + 53 assists = 76 points. Barré-Boulet is 2nd in the AHL in points and assists.
2.) Simon Ryfors: 21 goals + 28 assists = 49 points.
3.) Gage Concalves: 11 goals + 36 assists = 47 points.
4.) Trevor Carrick: 14 goals + 25 assists = 39 points.
5.) Gabriel Dumont: 17 goals + 20 assists = 37 points.
- Shots Leader: Alex Barré-Boulet with 205. Barré-Boulet is 5th in the AHL in shots.
- Power Play Goals Leader: Alex Barré-Boulet with seven.
- Game Winning Goals Leader: Gabriel Dumont with four.
- +/- Leader: Alex Barré-Boulet and Declan Carlile at +25 each. Barré-Boulet and Carlile are 5th and 6th in the AHL in +/-.
- PIM Leader: Daniel Walcott with 99. Walcott is 19th in the AHL.
Utica Comets Team Defense
- Goals Against: 202 (16th in the AHL).
- Goals Against Per Game: 3.06 (16th in the AHL).
- Shots Allowed: 1,923.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 29.14 (7th in the AHL).
- Penalty Kill: 77.6% (152 for 196 – 26th in the AHL).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: 6 (21st in the AHL).
Syracuse Crunch Team Defense
- Goals Against: 211 (21st in the AHL).
- Goals Against Per Game: 3.25 (21st in the AHL).
- Shots Allowed: 1,939.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 29.83 (11th in the AHL).
- Penalty Kill: 79.9% (203 for 254 – 21st in the AHL).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: 7 (15th in the AHL).
Utica Comets Goaltenders
- Nico Daws: Record: 14-13-3 / GAA: 2.77 / Save Percentage: 0.904 / Saves: 768 / Shutouts: 1.
- Akira Schmid: Record: 10-6-4 / GAA: 2.55 / Save Percentage: 0.908 / Saves: 511 / Shutouts: 2.
- Issac Poulter: Record: 6-3-3 / GAA: 3.60 / Save Percentage: 0.883 / Saves: 316 / Shutouts: 0.
Syracuse Crunch Goaltenders
- Hugo Alefelt: Record: 17-10-1 / GAA: 2.57 / Save Percentage: 0.911 / Saves: 741 / Shutouts: 3. Alnefelt is 12th in the AHL in GAA, 15th in wins, and 17th in save percentage.
- Max Lagace: Record: 15-12-6 / GAA: 3.40 / Save Percentage: 0.887 / Saves: 879 / Shutouts: 1.
Sunday afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 3 pm EDT. The Comets radio broadcast will be on 94.9 K-Rock (WKLL) and the Crunch radio broadcast will be on ESPN Radio Syracuse. Television coverage for the game will be on AHLTV. For more information about the Utica Comets, visit https://uticacomets.com and for more about the Syracuse Crunch, visit https://syracusecrunch.com.
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