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Kings of the North The Comets came into the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Wednesday night needing two points to secure the North Division’s top spot heading into the playoffs and they achieved their goal with a win over the Cleveland Monsters by a 4-3 decision.
In the first period, the Comets started the scoring after Aarne Talvitie redirected a pass from Joe Gambardella into the back of the cage at 12:49. It was Talvitie’s 12th goal of the season. The period ended with the Comets holding a 1-0 lead. But it was the second period that saw the Monsters go up a goal after getting the first of two straight when defenseman Jake Christiansen scored on the power-play at 11:42 tying the contest at 1-1. This was followed up by a shot from the point by another Comets defenseman, Cole Clayton at 15:10 on a wrist-shot through a screen. At the conclusion of forty minutes, the Comets trailed 2-1.
In the third, defenseman Jarrod Gourley, who was skating in his first ever AHL game, struck to tie the contest just 66 seconds into the period launched a shot that went off the crossbar and in past Cam Johnson. The goal was assisted by Graeme Clarke and Talvitie. Then, it was Chase DeLeo who gave the Comets a 3-2 lead at 2:25 after he scored with a wrist shot that went over the glove of Johnson. During the period, Schmid and the Comets successful killed off a long five-on-three against them. Alex Holtz struck for his 25th of the year on a shot between his legs at 13:34 putting the Comets up 4-2. Clarke and Talvitie added to their nights with another point. The Monsters came back, and it was an unassisted goal by Thomas Schemitsch who picked his spot on the glove side of Schmid at 15:35. This cut the Comets lead to 4-3. It wasn’t enough to thwart the eventual Comets victory and the North Division crown.:
Comets Leading Scorers: The team’s leading scorers heading into the weekend is Chase DeLeo, scoring 18 goals and 35 assists for 53 points in 52 games played. Second in team scoring is rookie Alex Holtz with 35 goals and 25 assists for 50 points in 51 games played. Leading Comets defenseman in scoring is Reilly Walsh leads all d-men in scoring with eight goals and 32 assists for 40 points in 68 games. Defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon leads the team in plus/minus with a +23 rating.
Special Teams Ranking: Heading into the week, the Comets begin with the 5th ranked power play operating at 21.4%. At home, their power play operates ranks 19th at 19.1%. On the penalty kill, Utica ranks 10th in the league at 81.6% while at home they are second at 87.9%
The North Division: The Comets, North Division champs, have three games remaining in the schedule with 66 games played so far this season. They currently hold a record of 41-19-8 -1 which gives them 87 points and a winning percentage of .659. This leads all teams in the North and the Eastern Conference. The team closests to the Comets in winning percentage is the Laval Rocket with a .597.
Roster Moves: The New Jersey Devils announced today that goaltender, Nico Daws, was reassigned to the Utica Comets. In addition, the Devils have recalled defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk from the Comets. Daws, 21, played in 25 games for the Devils this season with a record of 10-11-1 holding a 3.11 goals against average with a .893 save percentage. He started the season with Utica and through the 2021-22 campaign recorded a 2.41 goals against average with a .918 save percentage over 18 games played. Okhotiuk, 21, skated in 63 games this season with the Comets scoring three goals and nine assists for 12 points and 68 penalty minutes. The former Devils 2nd round pick from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft has not yet made his NHL debut.