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Akira Schmid steps up for New Jersey Devils

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
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Posted 4/27/23

Development is an essential aspect for American Hockey League teams, including the Utica Comets.

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Akira Schmid steps up for New Jersey Devils


Development is an essential aspect for American Hockey League teams.

The objective is to mold players who can be contributors for a parent team in the National Hockey League. Though, it might be a little unexpected for a goalie in their second year at the professional level to step into a playoff series with your team trailing and have success.

No matter for the 22-year-old Akira Schmid in making the most of his opportunities with the Utica Comets, and most notably, the New Jersey Devils in this postseason.

With the Devils down 2-0 in a best-of-seven first-round NHL playoff series against the New York Rangers, Schmid was thrust into action — at Madison Square Garden, no less — and suddenly is one of the reasons the Devils tied the series entering Thursday night’s Game 5.

“You can’t let it get to your head or worry about it too much,” Schmid told media of stepping in. “You just got to treat it like any other game. And if you think about it too much, you get too nervous or whatever. It has to be like that. That’s all you can do. Play your game. Play it simple.”

It has made for a nice development story involving Schmid, who was a fifth-round draft pick by New Jersey in 2018 and is two years removed from playing in the junior-level United States Hockey League.

Comets teammates have talked about Schmid displaying a calmness on and off the ice.

“I think it just speaks volumes to our team down here, especially our goaltending. We’ve talked about how we’ve had really good goaltending,” said defenseman Reilly Walsh, who also acknowledged the solid play of Nico Daws. “With Schmiddy, that’s a guy that’s been up and down this year. He earns the role as the backup and all he does is wait for his chance to be a starter. He’s been playing well. For him, he’s just been doing what he does. But, the Devils team has kind of rallied around him. It is a mix of giving them energy and staying confident back there. It just speaks to what these guys do down here and taking your chance and running with it.”

Schmid is a recent example of a goalie making the most of his time in Utica, joining Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko. Markstrom had played six pro seasons before his All-Star season with Utica while Demko had two full seasons with Utica en route to making a splash in the NHL.

Schmid is certainly making for interesting decisions going forward for Devils officials. The team also has Vitek Vanecek — who started the first two games of the series against the Rangers — and Mackenzie Blackwood, who has been a scratch during the playoffs and is a free agent this offseason.

Schmid was 22-8-5 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 38 games for Utica last season and 11-7-4 with a 2.62 GAA and .905 save percentage in 23 games this season. His 33 wins with Utica are fifth-most on the team’s career list, one back of Joe Cannata.

Schmid claimed the Mohawk Valley Media’s Most Valuable Player honor with Utica this season.

Schmid’s standout play is a source of pride for the Comets. Kevin Bahl, who also had a standout 2021-22 season with Utica, has also carved a role as a physical defenseman, with New Jersey. Both are eligible to return to Utica during the postseason should New Jersey’s postseason aspirations end. It is unclear if the organization would assign them.

“I think Akira is getting a lot of accolades right now,” Comets coach Kevin Dineen said earlier this week. “There’s a lot of talk about him being a difference-maker. As much as you can say — I am so excited and so proud of what Akira has done individually — I just like the way that Jersey is playing right now. I think they’ve limited a lot of the firepower that the Rangers bring. It is not easy going down two (games) at home and going on the road and scratching your way into it. There’s going to be some exciting hockey, for sure.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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