Utica Jr. Comets See Best First Weekend In NCDC Tenure

Neither the Utica Jr. Comets nor their predecessors the Syracuse Jr. Stars started out 3-0 in any of their first four seasons in the league. Their best three-game starts were 2-1 in both the inaugural 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, while they started 2020-21 off on the wrong foot with an 0-3 mark that saw three shutouts against to boot.

Louis Educate, new Head Coach for the Jr. Comets, joins four other current or former NCDC coaches as starting their NCDC coaching career with at least three straight wins.

Utica hosted Rockets Hockey Club over the weekend with the first game facing off Friday night at the Adirondack Bank Center. Utica fell behind 2-0 after the first period, but responded with four second period goals to hold a 4-3 lead heading into the final period.

Scoring for Utica was Owen Carlile (Brighton, MI), Walter Baumann (Ormond Beach, FL), Dhillon Wilde (Northborough, MA), and Luke French (Olathe, KS). Brendan Kennedy (Georgetown, ON), John Gutt (Middletown, NJ), Sam Techel (Wassau, WI), and Niko Benjamin (Pheonix, AZ) chipped in with helpers. Wilde added an empty net goal late in the third to give the home team a 5-3 win. Sebastian Woods (Limehouse, ON) made 31 saves in goal to earn the win.

Utica once again fell behind in the second game of the weekend series allowing a goal 34 seconds into the opening period on Saturday. Jake Stapert (Flemington, NJ) scored the equalizer at 10:42 assisted by Alex Liebel (Cleveland, NY). The Rockets added two more goals before the end of the period and held a 3-1 lead after twenty minutes.

Utica came out flying to start the second and it the “pep in their step” paid off. Baumann and Carlile scored two minutes apart to tie the game at three all. Gutt, Medrick Bolduc (Quebecm CAN), Domenick Evtimov (Chicago, IL) and Gabriel Lunn (Buffalo, NY) picked up assists on the goals.

Jason Shafer (Westmoreland, NY) scored 3:03 into the third followed by an Evtimov tally to go ahead 5-3 with just over 15 minutes remaining. The visitors pulled within a goal a few minutes later, but Kennedy added an insurance marker at 14:32 to seal the win. Utica goaltender Ethan Neitsch (Edmonton, AB) stopped 39 of 43 shots.

The two teams wrapped up their series on Sunday morning at 11am. The Rockets looked to be the better team in the finale and held a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes of play. Once again, Utica regrouped during intermission and took control of the game in the third period. The Jr. Comets scored four goals in the first nine minutes of the third period to take a 4-3 lead. Goals were scored by Techel, Wilde, Liebel, and Gutt. Baumann added an empty netter with 6 seconds left to complete the series sweep. Woods was back in net for this one and finished with a strong 37 save performance.

Utica’s 16 goals in their first three games is a best total for their first three games. Their last 16-goal run in three games came towards the start of Hub City Tampa, where they went 2-1 in a three-game set early on between Jan. 11-17, 2021

Dhillon Wilde (‘02) and Owen Carlile (‘03) lead the team with five points apiece, with Wilde holding a 3-2-5 line and Carlile a 2-3-5 line. Both also lead the NCDC in scoring.

Walter Baumann (‘01) was already the team’s all-time leading goal-scorer and he’s started with three in his first three games and now has a team record 33 career NCDC goals. Adding an assist this weekend also has him just six points back of former teammate Donny Borgula for the all-time points lead – Baumann has 69 and Borgula is at 75.

Sebastian Woods (‘01) is 2-0 in net, while Ethan Neitsch (‘03) has the other victory. Both withstood a torrent of shots, combining for 117 against in three games, an average of 39 per contest.

Next up for Utica is another three game weekend set as they travel to Hollydell Ice Arena to take on the Philadelphia Hockey Club this weekend.

Portions of this article were copied from usphl.com.

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