Comets open AHL training camp under Devils affiliation


UTICA – The Utica Comets opened training camp on Monday, and Kevin Dineen, head coach of the team now affiliated with the New Jersey Devils, said the plan was to develop players but also put “an entertaining product” on ice for the fans.

After eight years as an affiliate in the NHL Vancouver Canucks AHL, the Utica team has changed affiliation and color. On Monday, the players hit the ice in red, black and white.

Dineen spoke after practice with the media, noting that the plan at Utica is to replicate the New Jersey style according to the expectations of Devils head coach Lindy Ruff.

This includes a focus on defense and an offensive puck control plan. “We are in the development business (of players), but we also develop individuals,” he said. It means being active in the community in order to “leave a lasting positive impression” in Utica.

The organization has two goalkeepers, four defenders and 12 attackers present at the start of the camp of the Comets.

Mareks Mitens and Brandon Kasel are the keepers.

In defense, Greg DiTomaso, Jeremy Groleau, Joe Masonious and Michael Vukojevic.

The dozen forwards are: Alex Brink, Patrick Grasso, Nick Hutchinson, Tyler Irvine, Jordan Kaplan, Samuel Laberge, Colin Long, Patrick McGrath, Nick Rivera, Ryan Schmelzer, Nathan Schnarr and Luke Stevens.

Schmelzer, a 28-year-old from Buffalo, spent the last three seasons with the Binghamton Devils, before the change of affiliation to the AHL. He said it’s important to bring the lessons learned in the NHL camp in Utica, including attention to detail and responsibility. It was good to “see the pace and pace these guys played up there,” he said, and the reinforcement that there has to be a commitment to hockey on and off the ice. at all times. Team members are just starting to get to know each other, especially those who are new to the organization, he said.

Schmelzer said that when it comes to team identity, just look at how Dineen played out his 19-year NHL career. He played a tough game, he said. “I think that’s what he wants from us.”

It’s a different feeling to be in Utica Aud as a member of the home team, Schmelzer admitted. “Every time we’ve been here,” as Binghamton players, “you knew it would be a tough place to play.” He said, “Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to support the winning teams.

Vukojevic played 26 games for Binghamton in his first professional season in 2020-21. The 20-year-old Oakville, Ont. Native said it was a challenge to get everyone on the same page in such a short time, but “it’s just so exciting” to come back to play a full schedule after last season was cut short due to COVID-19. His plan is to move on to “build confidence and consistency”.

The Comets will face the Rochester Americans in a pre-season home game at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 8 at Aud. The following night, the Comets travel to Syracuse to face the Crunch at 5 p.m. for their second and final preseason game.

The Comets will drop the puck for the opener of the regular season on Sunday, Oct. 17 at home against the Rochester Americans at 3 p.m. The game marks the 34th anniversary of the Utica Devils’ first game played at home.


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