Akira Schmid assigned back to Utica Comets after NHL stint
The Utica Comets got standout goalie Akira Schmid back Sunday.
The move involving the second-year netminder from the parent New Jersey Devils comes less than 24 hours after the Comets got fellow second-year standout Nico Daws back from a three-week injury absence in Saturday's 1-0 shootout loss to Rochester.
The move also happens after New Jersey secured a playoff spot for the first time since the 2017-18 season Saturday night while also having Mackenzie Blackwood return from an injury absence.
Asked following Saturday's result if the Comets would continue to have three goalies with Daws' return, Comets coach Kevin Dineen said there had been "discussions" about the position. It seemed possible at that point Schmid could be returning to Utica.
"Organizationally, we’re under a lot of discussions where we’re at. We’ll see how Nico is after (Saturday's) game after some time off," Dineen said. "That’s one area where we’ve been comfortable whether it is Poults (Isaac Poulter), or Nico or Akira.”
The move involving Schmid is not overly surprising given that NHL teams typically don't carry three healthy goaltenders on the roster — New Jersey also has Vitek Vanecek — and Schmid was the lone goalie of the group to be made eligible by the Devils for the rest of the American Hockey League's regular-season and playoffs at the NHL trade deadline on March 3. Vanecek and Blackwood were expected to be the tandem for New Jersey this season.
Schmid, though, has impressed at the NHL level this season. In 17 games, the 22-year Swiss goalie tops New Jersey in save percentage (.918) and goals against (2.24). He earned his first NHL shutout on Feb. 25.
It is also not like he won't re-join the Devils at some point. There's possibilty that he gets called up — along with others from the Comets — at some point as part of a Black Aces group during the NHL playoffs. He could also make a playoff appearance for the Devils given how this season has gone.
Schmid has also arguably been one of the Comets' best players in his second season with the team. In 20 games, he has a team-bests with a 2.53 goals-against average — 12th best in the AHL — and a .908 save percentage. He has 10-6-3 record.
"Obviously, I want to be the best every game," Schmid told the Sentinel in January. "I've felt good this season. You try to develop and be ready to go."
The Comets remain in a push for one of the North Division's four remaining playoff spots. Following a lopsided 6-1 loss Sunday at Syracuse, Utica is 31-24-6-3 overall for 71 points and is ahead of Syracuse (70) and Rochester (69), who have each played one fewer game.
The Comets' Magic Number is eight points to clinch a playoff spot for the second time in as many seasons under Dineen.
Neither Schmid nor Daws played Sunday, though it wasn't revealed why. Poulter saw the bulk of the time Sunday, stopping 21 of 26 shots before Mike Robinson made his AHL debut. He made 11 saves on 12 shots in playing about 27 minutes.
Poulter has performed admirably — Entering Sunday, he had a 3.33 goals-against average, .889 save percentage, 6-2-3 record in 11 games — with Schmid called up and Daws out.
Robinson was released from his tryout with the Comets following Sunday's game.
Another goalie Zachary Emond, who was obtained as part of New Jersey's monster trade for Timo Meier, is out for the season.
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