Category Archives: Hockey

Hockey History

Important to read if you follow the Utica Comets



Hockey History – A Small Slice From My Life Experiences

I followed ice hockey throughout the 1950’s and thought I would share a little about this older era.

National Hockey League

The history of the National Hockey League begins with the end of its predecessor league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), in 1917. The NHL’s first quarter-century saw the league compete against two rival major leagues—the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League—for players and the Stanley Cup. The NHL first expanded into the United States in 1924 with the founding of the Boston Bruins, and by 1926 consisted of ten teams in Ontario, Quebec, the Great Lakes region, and the Northeastern United States. At the same time, the NHL emerged as the only major league and the sole competitor for the Stanley Cup; in 1947, the NHL completed a deal with the Stanley Cup trustees to gain…

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Utica Comets 4 Run Over By San Antonio Rampage 8

The Utica Comets fell to the San Antonio Rampage 8-4 on New Year’s Day at The Utica Memorial Auditorium in their first regulation loss in 11 games. This also marks the first time the Comets have lost in regulation in front of a sell-out crowd at The AUD.

Despite offensive production from four different Comets players, San Antonio’s goaltender Dan Ellis bested Utica in net with a total of 28 saves on 32 shots on net. Rampage forward, Bobby Butler (1-2-3), helped record the most offensive production on the team while being awarded the second star of the game.

After a handful of saves on both ends of the ice, San Antonio found the first goal of the night with just under three minutes left in the first period. Following a puck battle along the boards, Brett Olson retrieved the puck from the chaos behind Jacob Markstrom’s net. Olson didn’t hang on the puck for long and opted for a quick pass back out to the blue line from in between the hashmarks. Shane O’Brien received Olson’s pass and immediately propelled the rubber over Markstrom’s glove hand for the 1-0 lead. Butler was credited with the secondary assist.

The second period left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth except for San Antonio. In 11 minutes and 23 seconds, the Rampage scored six goals.

Their second of the game and first of the period came at 4:07 after Andrey Pedan took an interference penalty a minute prior. Drew Shore made a pass across the blue pain to Connor Brickley who then popped it past Markstrom’s left side to make it 2-0. Wade Megan was also tallied an assist on the play.

Before San Antonio could unleash another attack, the Comets answered back roughly two minutes later. After Cal O’Reilly rushed into the neutral zone, the puck made its way to Pedan who then left the puck with Alex Biega. To finish the play, O’Reilly was waiting to the right side of Ellis’ net to pop in the cross-ice pass from Biega to keep the score within one.

Despite the Comets efforts to fight back, Rampage continued on with their destruction. At 8:06 Butler forced the Comets to turn over the puck behind Markstrom’s net. Oncer Butler had possession, he pass the puck to Garrett Wilson who took a point blank shot that popped between Markstrom’s legs to make the two goal lead theirs once again with a score of 3-1.

The Comets next goal was the perfect definition of a give-and-go play. A minute and a half after San Antonio’s last goal, Brandon DeFazio and Dustin Jeffrey rushed into the offensive zone. With two consecutive passes, the puck made its way to Biega’s stick just above the center hashmarks. With a flick of the stick, Biega’s wrist shot was buried top shelf over Ellis’ glove hand for a shorthanded goal to make it 3-2.

San Antonio scored another at 10:45 on a 5-on-3 opportunity. With one slapshot from Rocco Grimaldi and a tip in front of the net by Jesse Blacker, the Rampage made the score 4-2 on the power-play goal. Mark Mancari took credit for the secondary assist.

Immediately one minute after, the Comets answered back for the last time of the period with a DeFazio wrist shot. After some board play by O’Reilly and Wacey Hamilton, the puck found its way to DeFazio who netted his 14th of the season to make it 4-3.

What followed was a burst of three goals from their southern foes.

Just 36 seconds after DeFazio’s goal, Butler sniped in a shot over Markstrom’s shoulder for another two-goal lead after his linemates Blacker and Grimaldi both contributed on the play.

After letting in four goals in during the second period alone, Markstrom was pulled from his duties and replace by Joacim Eriksson after playing 32:24 in the crease.

At 14:25 Shore received a pass across the crease from Mancari and tapped the puck in the backdoor for their sixth goal of the night. Brickley received the secondary assist. Moments later, the puck found its way past Eriksson for the second time. Megan gave a quick dish to Andrew Yogan who blasted in the one-timer top-shelf before Eriksson had time to react. Stephan Vigier also received an assist on San Antonio’s sixth goal of the period and seventh of the game.

And with the start of the third period, the game was evidently drawing to a close.

Even while trailing by four, the Comets still dug for some energy as they scored their fourth of the night directly off of a face-off in the attacking zone. At 7:15 Will Acton pushed the puck to Pedan for a hard slapshot from the point. On it’s way through, Jensen caught a piece of the puck to tip it in past Ellis to close the gap to three.

Rampage eventually sealed the deal at 14:21 after some board play behind Eriksson’s net. The puck popped out to the left of Eriksson as Alex Petrovic lifted the puck past Eriksson, to the post, and then into the net to make it a final score of 8-4. Logan Shaw received the only assist on the play.

The last time the Comets allowed eight goals in one game was on January 17, 2014 against the Albany Devils at The AUD.

With an early start to their weekend, the Comets will keep on trucking right on through Saturday. Tomorrow night, the Adirondack Flames will play host to Utica for a 7 p.m. puck drop at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Comets have yet to drop a game to the Calgary Flames affiliate through five games this season. On Saturday, the Comets will return to The AUD for their first of two match-ups against the Iowa Wild this season.

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Rome native Tom Sestito is coming home – for a little while, anyway.

The Vancouver Canucks on Sunday assigned the 27-year-old forward to the Utica Comets of the AHL for a conditioning assignment. Sestito has one assist in two games with the Canucks this season. 

The Comets are back home after a southwest road trip last week, in which they went 2-1 in three overtime games (at Oklahoma City, at Texas and at San Antonio). 


Utica hosts Rochester on Wednesday, Toronto on Friday and Syracuse on Saturday. All games start at 7 p.m.

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Utica Comets 3 over Hamilton Bulldogs 2 at the AUD

The Utica Comets extended their lead on the Western Conference’s North Division to seven points on Wednesday night in a 3-2 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs at The Utica Memorial Auditorium.

It was a busy night for Nicklas Jensen (pictured at top) ; the first star of the game scored two of the Comets three goals which total’s to six on the season. Alex Friesen also had quite the return tallying two assists after suffering from a shoulder injury since the first game of the season. Joacim Eriksson recorded his fifth win on the season and stopped 19 of 21 shots taken by the Bulldogs which kept the Comets in first place with 26 points out of a possible 30.

Alex Frieson
Alex Frieson
Joacim Eriksson
Joacim Eriksson

Exactly half way through the opening period, Alexandre Grenier displayed some dirty dekes just before he scored his fifth goal of the year and the first of the game. After receiving a pass from Cal O’Reilly, Grenier carried the puck into the offensive zone for a 2-on-1 opportunity. A toe drag and a move to the backhand allowed Grenier to sneak the rubber underneath Mike Condon’s pads to make it 1-0.

Alex Grenier
Alex Grenier

The Comets will have one day of rest before they head into a potentially record breaking weekend. This Friday, they will head to Rochester for their second meeting of the season with the Americans at 7 p.m.

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Canuks Recall DeFazio from Utica Comets

Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning announced that the Canucks have recalled forward Brandon DeFazio from the AHL Utica Comets.

DeFazio, 26, has collected six points (4-2-6) in 13 games with the Comets this season. He currently ranks tied for first on Utica in goals. The 6’2”, 204-pound forward collected 34 points (17-17-34) and 106 penalty minutes in 76 games played with Utica last season.

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Being 1: Bo Horvat

Flashback to a couple weeks ago. Back to October 22, when the Utica Comets were preparing for their 2014-15 home opener. On ice level , anxiously awaiting Tom Coyne to call his name at The AUD – Bowie Hockey, meet professional hockey.

Bowie (Bo) William Horvat, 19, of Rodney, Ontario (population 1,023) is about to officially become a professional hockey player.  Of all the NHL cities he has dreamed of as a kid, cheering for his favorite team the Detroit Red Wings or his favorite player Mike Richards, Utica, NY wasn’t on the list. But he is sure glad to be here.

Now, fast forward to Saturday October 18, 2014.  As the Comets were finishing their visit to Texas’ Southwest with the Stars, Horvat was in Vancouver.  The Canucks had just completed their contest with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Rogers Center.  Soaking up the early season match with his teammates is short lived for Horvat.  Within hours the Canucks’ 2013 first round draft pick (9th overall), with bags in tow, will be catching his first flight of the day at Vancouver International Airport.

A new set of teammates, in  a city he’s never visited, are in the cards for the kid many are calling a valuable ingredient to happier days for the Canucks and their following.  Before noon, Pacific Time, Horvat makes his way through security.  Vancouver to Toronto ,to Syracuse is how the itinerary reads. Picked up by car in Syracuse, as Horvat’s driver gets him closer to Utica, a highly anticipated pro career awaits its christening.

Horvat has been dispatched to Utica on a conditioning assignment.  Due to his age, Horvat is eligible to play in six games only for the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. A couple days practice, then the mid-week match with the Adirondack Flames quickly approaches.  Horvat is anxious for in-game ice time.

“I haven’t played in a game for the past two to three weeks,” says Horvat after his first day of practice as a Comet.

Comfortability equals productivity.  The more Horvat gets “his legs under him”, as he evaluates his progress, the better for the Comets and Canucks.  Anticipation is high on Horvat to produce numbers for Vancouver as he did last season in the OHL.  In his third season as a London Knight, in 54 games, Horvat spun heads in amazement when he netted 74 points (30-44-74) in just 54 games.

There are four other teammates, all number one draft picks, who could understand what is going through Horvat’s head.  Regular, ordinary, these words, especially from hockey fans, don’t equate towards Horvat.

Comets’ coach Travis Green perhaps has the best insight on Bo’s output at The AUD. “He’s been good during his first two pro games; a very responsible player.  I like what I see in him.  He should of had a goal for us tonight,” Green said after Friday’s Comets-Rampage match.

The stat sheet for last Wednesday’s game with Adirondack, for Horvat are nearly invisible.  Skating before a sold-out AUD, Horvat is credited with two shots on goal, and sat in the box for two minutes.  Cross-checking was the call.  But, this 19-year old is anything but a normal teenager – even in Utica.

Outside the Comets’ dressing room, there are more media members than normal, all presumably waiting to speak with the number one drat pick who will be forever connected with the Cory Schneider trade that sent the Vancouver goalie to the New Jersey Devils, in return for the pick that landed Horvat with the Canucks. With lights, cameras, and microphones surrounding him, Horvat presents himself with the poise of someone years advanced.  He is polite, careful in choosing his words, and not in awe of neither his position in the organizational depth chart or of the demands of Canucks fans.

Horvat, being just 19 and with the NHL club, has had to grow up quickly. As was reported in The Vancouver Sun on October 2, six days before the start of the Canucks’ regular season, Horvat injured his shoulder on the first shift of a 2-1 pre-season win over Edmonton.

When exiting the dressing room that night, Horvat’s left arm was in a sling. At the time Horvat was favored among Canuck rookies to make the 23-man roster.  Predicted stardom suddenly was put on hold as Canucks faithful held their collective breathes waiting for the latest news. Ultimately, it amounted to just another hurdle to conquer for the son of Tim and Cindy Horvat.  Born in London (ONT), 42 miles south is Rodney. This is where the relaxed, well-mannered teenager learned his craft.

What’s the ceiling on how Horvat’s career will be built?  The fair assessment is still out, and still a ways away..  But, as a top draft pick, the spotlight never dims.  In 2011 Horvat was the 9th overall selection by London (the same team his dad briefly skated for in the mid-’80′s).

The early morning practices and living away from home (although Horvat played in London, he chose to live with a billet family to cut down on commuting) paid off. On August 6,2013 Horvat signed a three year, entry level contract with Vancouver.

Every shift, of every game is fair game to prognosticators, scouts, and commentators for Horvat.  It’s part of the territory of being a top draft pick.  The Hockey News has a scouting report that reads like this on Horvat: “Quality two-way forward with upside.  He can play both center and wing. After five games with the Comets, the scouting report does not look wrong.

At 6′ 206lbs., Horvat, who shoots left, should be used to others doing their part to define him, and his game.  In a report on Yahoo! Sports Canada, Buzzing The Net called him a “wizard in the face-off dot”.

International Scouting Services head scout Ross MacLean  offered this to say about the future of Bo -”Simply put, he is the total package. He plays a strong two-way offense. A first or second-line center in the NHL.”

At the 2013 draft held in New Jersey, Horvat was ranked 15th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.  International Scouting ranked him 10th overall among eligible skaters.  Bottom line, as an elite prospect, Horvat is a can’t miss draft pick for the Canucks.  The process naturally remains fluid.  Becoming the all-purpose remedy for success requires developing time.

On where his future lies, back to the OHL for a fourth season or returning to Vancouver to officially start his NHL career, Horvat keeps it simple. “All I want to do is concentrate on my game and stay focused.  Where I play is not up to me.  Staff and management will determine where I’ll be.”

There was no hiding his feeling last Wednesday after the home opener.  Horvat described his first Comets experience as “awesome”.  As for being a number one, and reminded of that early and often, Bo states that he tries not to think about that. Doing what he can to help his team win is now, and always has been, Horvat’s top priority.

Along with other current Comets who hold the distinction of being labeled as first round draft selections – Bobby Sanguinetti, Niklas Jensen,Hunter Shinkaruk, and Brendan Gaunce, they can relate to Horvat’s on-going experiences.  Perhaps, for Horvat and all their shake, it’s positive therapy to have one another in the dressing room and on the ice.

This past Sunday Horvat’s conditioning assignment ended, and he was recalled back to Vancouver. There is no doubt that an exciting future lays sprawled out in front of the Canucks’ prospect. But one thing is already cemented into place; the exciting professional hockey career of Bo Horvat made it’s debut right here in Utica, NY.

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The Utica Comets scored early and often Saturday night but ultimately just slipped past the Adirondack Flames with a 5-4 win

Five different Comets recorded a goal in tonight’s match-up including Brandon DeFazio who recorded his fourth goal of the season. Nicklas Jensen (1-1-2) and Cal O’Reilly (0-2-2) paced the way for the Comets with two points apiece.

Niklas Jensen
Niklas Jensen

As soon as the puck hit the ice in the first period the puck was no stranger to the back of the Flames net. Just 37 seconds into the first period Brandon DeFazio received a pass from Darren Archibald and rushed down the right side of the ice. Before Ortio had any time to react DeFazio sneaked a quick shot just underneath the crossbar to put the Comets ahead.

Cal O'Reilly
Cal O’Reilly

Just eighty-four seconds later Jensen tipped an Alex Biega slapshot through Joni Ortio’s five-hole to double the Comets lead. O’Reilly was credited with the secondary assist to extend his point streak to six games.

The Comets return to the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday November 5, against the Binghamton Senators. The game will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday Nov. 5th, and will feature discounted tickets and two-dollar drafts as part of their promotional student night.

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Utica Comets defeat the Binghamton Senators 3-2 Wednesday

Joacim Eriksson made 27 saves and the Utica penalty kill came up big again as the Comets hung on to defeat the Binghamton Senators 3-2 Wednesday in an American Hockey League game at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena.

It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Comets, 6-1-1-0 in the young season and in first place in the North Division.

Carter Bancks

Carter Bancks
Carter Bancks

and defensemen Peter Andersson

Peter Andersson
Peter Andersson

and Bobby Sanguinetti

Bobby Sanguinetti
Bobby Sanguinetti

scored for the Comets, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Chris Wideman getting the goals for the Senators, who dropped to 2-4-2-0.

Once again, the game came down to the Comets’ ability to kill penalties. They stopped all four Binghamton power plays, all after taking that 3-2 lead, including one in the last 97 seconds of the game, when Brandon DeFazio was called for high-sticking. Eriksson, with Wacey Hamilton, Bancks, Alex Biega and Andersson in front of him, had to hold up against a 6-on-4 over the last 58 seconds after Binghamton pulled goalie Andrew Hammond.

The Comets have killed 30 of 31 penalties this season, 97 percent and tops in the AHL.

Utica got off to a quick start on Bancks’ goal midway through the first period, but the Senators pulled even on Pageau’s score a little over a minute later. Andersson, who had scored three goals in 107 previous AHL games, then put the Comets ahead at 3:22 of the second period. Sanguinetti, set up by Cal O’Reilly, made it 3-1 at 7:42, but Wideman scored 39 seconds later, and it was a nailbiter the rest of the way.

Senators will visit the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Friday, and the Comets go to Glens Falls to play the Adirondack Flames on Saturday.

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Utica Comets 3-0 over San Antonio Rampage

Rookie Brendan Gaunce scored the first goal and first assist of his professional career.

Brendon Gaunce
Brendon Gaunce

Jacob Markstrom made 28 saves to earn his second victory and first shutout of the season.

Jacob Markstrom
Jacob Markstrom

Defenseman Alex Biega and forward Carter Bancks scored the other goals for Utica, which is 2-0-1-0 heading into Saturday’s game with the Calder Cup champion Texas Stars in Cedar Park, Texas.

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Loov’s goals lift Marlies over Comets

Viktor Loov scored the first two goals of his North American career, the second 5:55 into overtime, to give the Toronto Marlies a 3-2 American Hockey League victory over the Utica Comets Sunday at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto.

The Comets, who defeated the Marlies 2-1 Saturday, wound up with three points for their two-game, season-opening set. They will return home before taking off for a pair of games in Texas next weekend, visiting the San Antonio Rampage Friday and at the Texas Stars Saturday.

“It wasn’t a great hockey game,” said Comets coach Travis Green. “It was a sloppy game by both teams.”

Not that Green was upset with the effort.

“It was a hard-fought hockey game all around,” he said. “I just don’t think we were sharp.”

Dustin Jeffrey
Dustin Jeffrey

The Comets had grabbed a 2-1 lead on Brandon DeFazio’s goal at 2:23 of the third period, but Loov, a 21-year-old Swedish forward, tied things up 11 minutes later, after the Comets couldn’t clear their zone following a successful penalty kill.

Utica had dominated much of the action early, and had a 17-9 shot advantage after two periods, but the Marlies picked up the pace midway through the third, outshot the Comets decisively the rest of the way and had a 28-27 edge for the game.

The Marlies got out front first, with Troy Bodie connecting at 1:32 of the second period as he and Greg McKegg worked a two-on-one shorthanded break. The Comets got that back on Dustin Jeffrey’s second goal of the season, at 14:35 of the second, when he potted a rebound of an Alex Grenier shot. Rookie Hunter Shinkaruk also had an assist on the goal, the first point of his professional career.

DeFazio then pushed the Comets ahead when he threw the puck from behind the net and it bounced in off Marlies goalie Christopher Gibson. Rookie Brendan Gaunce helped create the goal by putting pressure on Gibson.

The Comets held that lead until Loov’s equalizer.

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