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Utica Comets at Laval Rocket Game Preview 01-24-2024

The Utica Comets hope to snap a two-game losing skid against the red-hot Laval Rocket 

The Utica Comets return to action on Wednesday night when they travel north of the border to face the Laval Rocket. Utica is currently amid a losing skid that’s now at two games with losses to the Rochester Americans (2-1) and the Syracuse Crunch (5-2). In both of those games, the Comets were outshot by at least four shots. Coming into this matchup against Laval, the Comets are currently winning the season series 3-2 and if they win tonight, they’re at least guaranteed a series-split. In Utica’s last ten games, they’re 4-2-1-3 (win-loss-OT loss-SO loss).

Since Thursday, there have been no recalls or loans within the organization, so hopefully, the weekend of games and practices is going to help the Comets create chemistry heading into the mid-week matchup. Despite all the recalls and loans, there has been a constant standout player. Graeme Clarke has played in all of the Comets games except two. In his thirty-four games, he has posted fifteen goals and thirteen assists for twenty-eight points, which was enough to grant the 2019 third-round draft pick a spot in the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic. He is on pace to score thirty-one goals. 

Graeme Clarke of the Utica Comets to play in the 2024 All-Star Classic


Utica’s powerplay has seen a dramatic improvement in the past few weeks. The Comets have scored eight powerplay goals in the past nine games. The recent strong play with the man advantage has lifted them out of the league cellar and into a tie for thirtieth in power play percentage.  

Despite the team’s record, Utica goaltender Isaac Poulter has also been a bright spot. In his eighteen games played Poulter holds a record of 10-5-1, which is more wins than the other Utica goaltenders combined. He also holds a strong 2.68 GAA and a 0.908 save percentage. The other active goalies on the roster are Erik Källgren who has a record of 1-5-2 with a 4.21 GAA and a 0.853 save percentage, as well as Akira Schmid. He has a record of 2-2-4 with a 3.60 GAA and a 0.887 save percentage.

Laval Rocket 

Laval is one of the hottest teams in the AHL with a streak of nine straight games with a point. They are also 8-1-1 in their past ten games (the overtime loss was to the Comets on January 10). The key to their success so far has been their offense. During this streak, they’ve scored four or more goals in seven of the last ten games they’ve played.  

The player who’s been getting it done for them is Brandon Gignac. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Gignac was drafted by the Devils in 2016 and spent time in the AHL with the Binghamton Devils until 2021. Gignac is having a career year, just two points shy of his career high in points in half the games. In his 37 games, he’s scored 12 times and recorded 22 assists for 34 points.  

Laval will be seeing Mitchell Stephens return to the lineup after he was waived on January 22nd in exchange for Arber Xhekaj who was called up yesterday afternoon. Stephens has recorded 12 points in 16 games, primarily coming from assists which he has nine. Justin Barron has also returned to Laval after playing 41 games for the Montreal Canadiens and recording 12 points split with 6 goals and assists.  Joshua Roy will also be out of the lineup, Roy has 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points in 34 games.  

Here are more in-depth stats for tonight’s matchup between the Laval Rocket and Utica Comets. 

Team Records

Utica Comets

  • Overall record: 14-15-4-3, 35 Pts. – 7th in the North Division.
  • Away record: 6-7-3-0, 15 Pts.
  • Goal Differential: -9
  • Head Coach: Kevin Dineen.

Laval Rocket

  • Overall record: 17-14-4-2, 40 Pts. – 4th in the North Divison
  • Home record: 10-6-2-1, 23 Pts.
  • Goal Differential: -6
  • Head Coach: Jean-François Houle

Team Offense

Utica Comets

  • Goals For: 112.
  • Goals Per Game: 3.11 – 15th in the AHL.
  • Shots: 1012.
  • Shots per Game: 28.11 – 27th in the AHL.
  • Power Play: 15.2% (21 for 138) – 30th in the AHL.

Laval Rocket

  • Goals For: 129.
  • Goals Per Game: 3.49 – 3rd in the AHL.
  • Shots: 1161.
  • Shots per Game: 31.38 – 6th in the AHL.
  • Power Play: 18.3% (30 for 164) – 16th in the AHL.

Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders

Utica Comets

  • 1.) Graeme Clarke: 15G + 13A = 28Pts. Clarke is 19th in the AHL in goals.
  • 2.) Xavier Parent: 9G + 19A = 28Pts.
  • 3.) Ryan Schmelzer: 8G + 17A = 25Pts.
  • 4.) Kyle Criscuolo: 8G + 14A = 22Pts.
  • 5.) Justin Dowling: 8G + 11A = 19Pts.
  • Shots Leader: Graeme Clarke with 101.
  • Power Play Goals Leader: Graeme Clarke and Justin Dowling with four.
  • Power Play Points: Justin Dowling with nine
  • Shorthanded Goals Leader: Shane Bowers and Ryan Schmelzer with two.
  • Game Winning Goals: Graeme Clarke with five.
  • +/- Leader: Ryan Schmelzer at +7.
  • PIM Leader: Samuel Laberge with 51.

Laval Rocket

  • 1.) Brandon Gignac: 12G + 22A = 34Pts. Gignac is 14th in the AHL in points and 17th in assists.
  • 2) Philippe Maillet: 9G + 17A = 26Pts.
  • 3.) Logan Mailloux: 8G + 16A = 24Pts.
  • 4.) Xavier Simoneanu: 5G + 18A = 23Pts.
  • 5.) Lias Andersson: 11G + 7A = 18Pts.
  • Shots Leader: Brandon Gignac with 92
  • Power Play Goals Leader: Lias Andersson with 4
  • Power Play Points Leader: Brandon Gignac with 10
  • Shorthanded Goals Leader: Nathan Légaré with 3. Légaré is 2nd in the AHL in SHG.
  • Game Winning Goals Leader: 5 different skaters with 2 each
  • +/- Leader: Tobie Bisson at +9
  • PIM Leader: Riley Mckay with 94. 4th in the AHL with PIMs

Team Defense

Utica Comets

  • Goals Against: 121
  • Goals Against Per Game: 3.36 – 28th in AHL.
  • Shots Allowed: 1085.
  • Shots Allowed Per Game: 30.14 – 20th in AHL.
  • Penalty Kill: 85% (108/127) – 3rd in the AHL.
  • Shorthanded Goals Socred: 6 – 5th in the AHL.

Laval Rocket

  • Goals Against: 135
  • Goals Against Per Game: 3.65 – 29th in the AHL
  • Shots Allowed: 1199.
  • Shots Allowed Per Game: 32.41 – 30th in AHL
  • Penalty Kill: 79.6% (129 for 162) – 24th in the AHL
  • Shorthanded Goals Scored: 9- 1st in the AHL.

Goaltenders

Utica Comets

Isaac Poulter

  • Record: 10-5-1
  • GAA: 2.68
  • Saves: 432
  • Save Percentage: .908
  • Shutouts: one

Akira Schmid

  • Record: 2-2-4
  • GAA: 3.60
  • Saves: 235
  • Save Percentage: 0.887
  • Shutouts: none

Erik Källgren

  • Record: 1-5-2
  • GAA: 4.21
  • Saves: 186
  • Save Percentage: .853
  • Shutouts: none

Laval Rocket

Jakub Dobeš

  • Record: 11-6-4
  • GAA: 3.44
  • Saves: 598
  • Save Percentage: .893
  • Shutouts: none

Strauss Mann

  • Record: 2-8-2
  • GAA: 3.67
  • Saves: 321
  • Save Percentage: .879
  • Shutouts: none

For more information about Utica Comets hockey, including schedules and ticketing, visit https://uticacomets.com.

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