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The Utica Comets are a professional ice hockey team based in Utica, New York. They are members of the North Division, of the Eastern Conference of the American Hockey League (AHL). Beginning play in the 2013–14 season, the team plays at the Adirondack Bank Center as the AHL affiliate of the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks. The Comets are the second AHL team to call Utica home; the Utica Devils played in the city from 1987 until 1993 and were affiliated with the New Jersey Devils.

Utica Comets
2019–20 AHL season
Utica Comets logo.svg
CityUtica, New York
LeagueAmerican Hockey League
ConferenceEastern
DivisionNorth
Founded1932
Operated2013–present
Home arenaAdirondack Bank Center
ColorsBlue, green, silver, white
                   
Owner(s)Canucks Sports & Entertainment
(leased to Robert Esche)
General managerRyan Johnson[1]
Head coachTrent Cull
CaptainCarter Bancks
MediaWKLL (94.9 FM)
Observer-Dispatch
WKTV NewsChannel 2
WUTR Eyewitness News
AHL.TV (Internet)
AffiliatesVancouver Canucks (NHL)
Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL)
Franchise history
1932–1935Quebec Beavers
1935–1951Springfield Indians
1951–1954Syracuse Warriors
1954–1967Springfield Indians
1967–1974Springfield Kings
1974–1994Springfield Indians
1994–2005Worcester IceCats
2005–2013Peoria Rivermen
2013–presentUtica Comets
Championships
Division Championships1 (2014–15)
Conference Championships1 (2014–15)
Calder Cups0

Contents

History

The Comets' franchise, one of the oldest professional hockey franchises in existence, dates back to 1932, when the team was known as the Quebec Beavers. In 1935, the franchise moved to Springfield and became the Indians, reviving the name after the original Indians franchise ceased operations during the 1932–33 Canadian-American Hockey League season. In addition to the Indians, the team has been known as the Syracuse Warriors, Springfield Kings, Worcester IceCats and then the Peoria Rivermen. The Rivermen franchise was purchased by Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CS&E), owners of the National Hockey League's (NHL) Vancouver Canucks, in a deal announced on March 29, 2013, and approved by the American Hockey League (AHL) on April 18.[2]

After purchasing the Rivermen franchise, CS&E intended to have the franchise located in a market close to Vancouver, British Columbia. Their initial preference was Abbotsford, British Columbia, which was home to the Calgary Flames' AHL farm club, the Abbotsford Heat. The Heat had been rumored to have plans to relocate to Utica, New York, at the time.[3] Negotiations between the Canucks and Abbotsford broke down by April 22, ensuring the Heat would remain in the city.[4] Media reports speculated that the Canucks would move the team to Vancouver and share Rogers Arena, which is also owned by CS&E, with the Canucks. This proved impossible as Vancouver is within Abbotsford's 50-mile territorial radius provided by the AHL.[5] A reported plan to have the team play in Seattle's KeyArena was disallowed by the NHL, as Seattle was reportedly a candidate to land the troubled Phoenix Coyotes franchise. However, the Coyotes eventually found a new owner with intentions to keep the franchise in Arizona.[6]

By May 2013, CS&E's options for the franchise were dwindling; it did consider keeping the franchise in Peoria,[7] but notified the city on May 13 it would not operate in that city, and the Rivermen were replaced by a Southern Professional Hockey League team of the same name.[8] CS&E did consider placing the franchise in dormancy for the 2013–14 season, with the Canucks loaning their AHL prospects to other teams.[9] Facing an extended deadline by the AHL to find a new home,[10] CS&E agreed to a deal with Utica, New York, to relocate the franchise to the city's soon-to-be-renovated Memorial Auditorium.[11] The deal was confirmed on June 14 with an official announcement revealing the Utica Comets name and affiliation, along with logo and jerseys patterned after the Canucks' blue, green and silver color scheme.[12] The Comets' nickname honors several prior professional hockey teams in the Mohawk Valley, most notably the Clinton and Mohawk Valley Comets, which played from 1927 until 1977 (as the Mohawk Valley Comets, they called the Memorial Auditorium home); the Atlantic Coast Hockey League's Mohawk Valley Comets, which played from 1985 until 1987; and a third team of the same name, which played in the North Eastern Hockey League during the 2003–04 season.

First Years in Utica

After the founding CS&E began hiring personnel to run the team. Travis Green became the first head coach in team history,[13] while Paul Jerrard and Nolan Baumgartner were named assistant coaches, and Pat Conacher was hired as the director of hockey operations.[14] Utica played its first game on October 11, 2013, a 4–1 loss to the Rochester Americans. In the game, Pascal Pelletier scored the first goal in Comets history.[15] Utica lost two more games before making their home debut. Before the game, the Comets celebrated the region's hockey history with a slide show, Gordie Howe dropped the ceremonial puck and the Hanson Brothers from the movie Slap Shot made an appearance. Utica lost the game 4–1 to the Albany Devils.[16][17] One week after their home opener, Colin Stuart was named team captain.[18] The Comets finished their debut season with 35 victories and 79 points, just four behind the last spot of the playoffs. Seventeen of the team's thirty-eight home games were sold out.[19]

Before the 2014–15 season, Cal O'Reilly was named the team's new captain.[20] The Comets saw much improvement in their sophomore season, and after Sven Baertschi and Cory Conacher were acquired in trades, the team soon dominated the Western Conference, finishing the regular season as the top seed.[21] During the playoffs, the Comets won the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference champions, advancing to the Calder Cup finals against the Manchester Monarchs;[22] the Comets would fall to the Monarchs in five games. Following the season, O'Reilly would join his brother Ryan with the Buffalo Sabres.

The 2015–16 season saw the departure of many Comets players. Jacob Markstrom became the backup goaltender for the Canucks, Brendan Gaunce and newly-named captain Alex Biega also spent significant time with the Canucks, while Nicklas Jensen and Hunter Shinkaruk were traded mid-season to the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames, respectively. The Comets placed third in the North Division, which was moved to the Eastern Conference at the start of the season. They were eliminated in the first round of the 2016 playoffs, losing the series 3–1 to the Albany Devils.

At the start of the 2016–17 season, Carter Bancks was named team captain, replacing Alex Biega, who became a full-time player for the Canucks. The Comets were unable to clinch a playoff berth, falling four points short. However, the team managed to sellout every home game, extending their sellout streak.

On April 26, 2017, the Canucks hired Green as their new head coach. Green had led the Comets to a 155–110–39 record through their first four seasons.[23] He was replaced by Trent Cull as head coach.[24]

The Comets continued their sellout streak through the 2017–18 season. They qualified for the 2018 playoffs as the fourth seed in the North Division. They lost the opening round in five games to the Toronto Marlies, the eventual Calder Cup champions.

On October 19, 2018, the Utica Comets sold out their 121st consecutive regular season game, establishing a new AHL record. They also sold out all of their 17 playoff games hosted during this span, for a combined streak of 138 consecutive sellouts.[25]

Season-by-season results

Players

Current roster

Updated July 6, 2019.[26]

# Nat Player Pos S/G Age Acquired Birthplace Contract
7   Brandon Anselmini D L 26 2018 Guelph, Ontario Comets
18   Vincent Arseneau LW L 27 2017 Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec Comets
32   Richard Bachman   G L 31 2015 Salt Lake City, Utah Canucks
34   Carter Bancks (C) LW L 29 2014 Calgary, Alberta Comets
8   Dylan Blujus D R 25 2017 Buffalo, New York Comets
24   Reid Boucher (A) LW L 25 2017 Grand Ledge, Michigan Canucks
5   Jalen Chatfield D R 23 2017 Ypsilanti, Michigan Canucks
44   Mitch Eliot D R 21 2019 Grosse Pointe, Michigan Canucks
22   Jonah Gadjovich F L 20 2018 Whitby, Ontario Canucks
36   Wacey Hamilton (A) C L 28 2014 Cochrane, Alberta Comets
9   Lukas Jasek RW R 21 2018 Trinec, Czech Republic Canucks
48   Olli Juolevi D L 21 2018 Helsinki, Finland Canucks
3   Stefan LeBlanc D L 23 2019 Oakville, Ontario Comets
13   Kole Lind RW R 20 2018 Shaunavon, Saskatchewan Canucks
15   Zack MacEwen C R 23 2017 Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Canucks
19   Seamus Malone C L 23 2019 Naperville, Illinois Comets

Team captains

There have been four Comets players who have served as the Captain. Colin Stuart was the franchise's first captain, who was appointed until he left the team as a free agent in 2014. Current captain Carter Bancks is the franchise's longest-tenured captain, who has held the position since 2016.

References

  1. ^ "CANUCKS APPOINT GM, ASSOCIATE COACH FOR UTICA". AHL. July 26, 2017.
  2. ^ "Report: Vancouver Canucks Purchase Rivermen; Move to Abbotsford?". Thecanuckway.com. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  3. ^ Kramer, Lindsay (February 26, 2013). "Possible AHL move to Utica stirs conflicting reports". The Post-Standard. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  4. ^ McIntyre, Gordon (April 23, 2013). "Abbotsford Heat staying put for next season at least after Canucks talks break down". The Province. Archived from the original on May 17, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  5. ^ Dan Kinvig (April 13, 2013). "Heat's territorial rights limit Canucks' local AHL options - Abbotsford News". Abbotsford News. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  6. ^ Mirtle, James (June 17, 2013). "Seattle on NHL's relocation radar yet again". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  7. ^ Eminian, Dave (April 23, 2013). "Civic Center begins talks with NHL Vancouver over Rivermen". Peoria Journal-Star. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  8. ^ Eminian, Dave (May 13, 2013). "Peoria to join SPHL under former Rivermen management team". Peoria Journal-Star. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  9. ^ "Report: Canucks won't operate AHL affiliate in Peoria". Abbotsford News. May 13, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  10. ^ Pap, Elliott (May 13, 2013). "Utica rolls out welcome mat for AHL". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  11. ^ Brough, Jason (June 6, 2013). "Report: Canucks moving AHL affiliate to Utica". NBC Sports. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  12. ^ Pitarresi, John (June 14, 2013). "Utica scores with new hockey team; Comets to play in AHL". Observer-Dispatch. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  13. ^ "Travis Green leaving Winterhawks to become coach of AHL's Utica Comets". The Oregonian. July 11, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  14. ^ "Utica Comets assistant coach and director of hockey operations announced". WKTV. August 13, 2013. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  15. ^ "Comets rewind - Oct 15, 2013". Vancouver Canucks. October 15, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  16. ^ Hughes, Steve (October 15, 2013). "Long time coming: Utica embraces return of pro hockey". Observer-Dispatch. Archived from the original on November 17, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  17. ^ "Comets fall 4-1 to Albany Devils in home opener". WKTV. October 23, 2013. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  18. ^ "Colin Stuart named first Comets captain in franchise history". WKTV. October 30, 2013. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  19. ^ "Comets Year in Review By the Numbers".
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Pitarresi, John. "A new season for the Comets as Calder Cup begins".
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ "Travis Green named Canucks head coach". Vancouver Canucks. April 26, 2017. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  24. ^ "COMETS NAME CULL HEAD COACH". AHL. June 28, 2017.
  25. ^ "COMETS BREAK AHL SELLOUT STREAK RECORD AT 121 GAMES". Utica Comets. October 19, 2018. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  26. ^ "Utica Comets Official Roster". Utica Comets. Retrieved February 21, 2019.

External links