Utica Comets Add Pair From the Adirondack Thunder

The Utica Comets have recalled a forward and defenseman from their ECHL affiliate.

The Utica Comets announced on Tuesday that they have recalled forward Nick Rivera and defenseman Joe Masonius from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. The recalls come on the heels of forward Alexander Holtz and defenseman Kevin Bahl being placed in the AHL Covid protocols just prior to the Comets Saturday night game against the Hartford Wolfpack.

The twenty-five-year-old Rivera began his professional career in 2020-21, playing fifty-five games for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL after playing four years of college hockey at Minnesota State University – Mankato. He has played twenty-three games for the Thunder this season, totaling five goals and four assists to go with twenty-two PIM.

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Masonius is a left-shot defenseman who was a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The twenty-four-year-old is in his fourth professional season, having played for the Macon Mayhem of the Southern Professional Hockey League and the South Carolina Stingrays, Manchester Monarchs, Norfolk Admirals, Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and now the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. In twenty-four games with Adirondack this season, Masonius has three goals and thirteen assists along with sixty PIM.

With AJ Greer, Nolan Foote, Colton White currently with the New Jersey Devils, and Holtz and Bahl in Covid protocols, recalling Rivera and Masonius was necessary to fill out the Utica roster ahead of their Wednesday night game against the Rochester Americans.

The NHL Taxi Squads will create chaos in the AHL and ECHL

New Jersey Devils roster mayhem continues

The good news for the Comets is that Pavel Zacha, Andreas Johnsson, and Yegor Sharangovich took part in the New Jersey Devils – which could mean Utica will be getting some players back soon. The bad news is with goaltender Nico Dawes still on the mend and no definitive timetable for his return, the Utica Comets have been waiting on the return of Akira Schmid to pair up with their current goaltender Mareks Mitens. That will not happen this week has the Devils announced on Tuesday that they have placed Schmid in the NHL Covid protocols, meaning he will be unavailable for at least five days. Mitens has played every game in goal for the Comets since being recalled from Adirondack to fill in for Dawes and Schmid, going 3-2-1-0 with a 3.45 GAA and a .877 save percentage.

The Devils are also waiting for test results on their starting goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. If Blackwood has to miss time, New Jersey would have to find a second goaltender in a hurry, as they would only have John Gillies available in goal. If they want to recall Mitens, they would have to sign him to an NHL contract. Without Mitens, the Comets would only have David Tomeo (who they have signed to a PTO) to play against Rochester – and Tomeo has no professional experience. Stay tuned.

Utica Comets Add to Roster, Announce Makeup Dates, and Time Changes

The Utica Comets made some more roster additions and schedule changes.

For the Utica Comets and the rest of the American Hockey League, Covid has turned rosters and the schedule upside down. On Monday, the Comets announced roster additions and the makeup dates for games of theirs that were postponed due to the pandemic.

With defenseman Kevin Bahl along with forwards, Nolan Foote and Alexander Holtz recalled to the New Jersey Devils Taxi Squad, and dealing with protocol issues of their own, the Comets recalled four players from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. Per https://uticacomets.com those four players are:

  • Forward Samuel Laberge
  • Forward Tyler Irvine
  • Forward Patrick Grasso
  • Forward Jordan Kaplan
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Laberge and Irvine were recalled to the Comets for the New Year’s Eve game against Lehigh Valley and then returned to Adirondack the next day. Grasso and Kaplan were in the Comets training camp in September and then assigned to Adirondack – neither has played a regular-season game for Utica this season. In twenty-three games played for the Thunder this season, Grasso has ten goals and eight assists. Kaplan has played nineteen games for Adirondack so far this season totaling two goals and eight assists.

The NHL Taxi Squads will create chaos in the AHL and ECHL

The Comets begin a stretch of three games in four days on Wednesday, January 5th in Toronto against the Marlies, so having a full roster is crucial.

Speaking of the Toronto Marlies, the Comets game against them on Wednesday is now starting at 1:00 pm EST instead of 7:00. Other schedule changes announced by the team and the AHL are as follows:

  • The December 5th game in Providence against the Bruins that was orginally rescheduled to January 10th will now take place on April 30th.
  • The game that was supposed to take place in Rochester on December 27th will now happen on April 29th at the Blue Cross Arena.
  • The matchup against the Springfield Thunderbirds on December 29th that was postponed will now be made up on February 9th in Springfield.

Utica Comets Bring in Some Reinforcements

Two forwards are coming to the Utica Comets from the Adirondack Thunder. The team also signed another goaltender to a PTO.

The Utica Comets are scheduled to play at home on New Year’s Eve against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and two new players along with a familiar face will be joining the party.

The return of Nico Daws or Akira Schmid is apparently not imminent, as the Comets also announced on Thursday morning they have signed goaltender David Tomeo to a Professional Tryout (PTO) contract. Tomeo will apparently backup starting goaltender Marek Mitens. The twenty-two-year-old Tomeo last played for Sacred Heart University in the 2020-21 season and did not record any stats. Sacred Heart belongs to the Atlantic Hockey Association, which will have its conference chapionship games at the Adirondack Bank Center in March (Atlantic Hockey Association Championship coming to Utica).

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The team has recalled forwards Samuel Laberge and Tyler Irvine from their ECHL affiliate, the Adirondack Thunder. Laberge has seen time with the Comets already this season, as he has played eight games for the team. In those eight games, the twenty-four-year-old winger had two goals, two assists, and nineteen PIM’s – seventeen of them coming in one game. Laberge seemed to be getting comfortable with the Comets before he was sent back to the Thunder on December 2nd.

Unsung Utica Comets Heroes so far: Aarne Talvitie

This will be the first time Irvine has joined the Utica Comets this season. The twenty-five-year-old winger played last season in the American Hockey League for the Binghamton Devils. In twenty five games for the Devils, he totalled four points.

Irvine is off to a great start for the Thunder this season. In twenty-one games played, he has eleven goals and eleven assists, averaging over one point per game. At the time of his recall to the Comets, Irvine was the leading scorer for the Thunder.

The NHL Taxi Squads will create chaos in the AHL and ECHL

Photo credit: freepnglogos.com

In response to depleted rosters due to virus protocols, the NHL has temporarily (for now) brought back the Taxi Squads. This will certainly have a ripple effect on the AHL and ECHL.

The NHL, with the blessing of the players union, has recently reinstated the Taxi Squads. According to NHL Public Relations via nhl.com, the rules for the taxi squads this season are as follows:

  • Clubs will be permitted to form Taxi Squads on a temporary basis beginning on Dec. 26, 2021 (subject to Holiday Roster Freeze restrictions), and lasting through the date of their final game prior to the scheduled dates for the 2022 All-Star Break. After each Club’s final game before the All-Star Break, its Taxi Squad will dissolve. Clubs may then recall or Reassign the Players that were assigned to the Taxi Squad.
  • Clubs will be permitted to assign a maximum of six (6) Players to their Taxi Squad. All such assignments will be subject to Waiver requirements as applicable. No individual Player may spend more than twenty (20) cumulative days on the Taxi Squad during the temporary formation period.
  • Players on Loan to the Taxi Squad will be permitted to travel and practice with the NHL Club, however, such Players can only play in an NHL Game if recalled and placed on the NHL Club’s Active Roster before such NHL Game (and no later than the appropriate 5:00 p.m. deadline). Although not all Players on Loan to the Taxi Squad are required to travel to all away games, it is recommended that a sufficient number of Taxi Squad Players travel with the Club to ensure an adequate number of Players are available for Recalls as may be necessary.

To implement these changes, the NHL and NHLPA (players union) had to agree to a few temporary changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). NHL Public Relations states these changes are:

  • A Club shall be permitted to recall a Player pursuant to the Roster Emergency Exception with an Averaged Amount (if calculated exclusive of Exhibit 5 Performance Bonuses) that is no more than $1,000,000.
  •  If a Club has fewer than two (2) goaltenders on its Active Roster who are able to play in the Club’s next Regular Season game due to injury or illness, it will be permitted to recall a goaltender immediately without the Club playing the previous game with fewer than two (2) goaltenders.
  • Additionally, should both goaltenders on a Club’s Playing Roster become incapacitated during an NHL Game, the Club will similarly be permitted to immediately recall a goaltender for purposes of playing in such NHL Game.
  •  If a Club has fewer than twelve (12) forwards or six (6) defensemen on its Active Roster who are able to play in its next Regular Season game specifically by virtue of Players being unavailable due to COVID-19 Protocol, such Club will be permitted to recall Players at the deficient positions without the Club having to play the previous game with fewer than 18 skaters. 

All Taxi Squad rules and temporary CBA changes quoted directly from the NHL press release on the two topics.

So to put it in a very basic form, Taxi Squads can have up to six players, none of them can make over $1,000,000 per season, and it is designed so that NHL teams will not have to play with less than eighteen skaters and two goaltenders. As you can see above there are more details to it than that, but this is the “cliff notes” version of it.

Another keyword in all of this is temporary. According to the release from NHL Public Relations, the Taxi Squads are to end at the NHL All-Star Break – which is scheduled for February 4th and February 5th, 2022. After this, transactions will go back to normal in regards to waivers, rosters, etc.

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For approximately six weeks (as long as the Taxi Squads do expire when they are supposed to), it means there will be roster chaos in not only the NHL but the AHL and ECHL as well. Surely, the NHL teams will most likely be filling their Taxi Squads from their AHL clubs, and AHL clubs will be looking to replenish their rosters from the ECHL teams. Of course, PTO (professional tryout) contracts will be signed in both the American Hockey League and ECHL to help fill roster voids as well.

Another key point to remember is although NHL teams can have up to six players on their Taxi Squads, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have six players on it at all times. I’ll use the New Jersey Devils and their AHL affiliate the Utica Comets as an example. The Devils recently had a Covid outbreak but five players that had missed time have since returned – of course, Tomas Tatar and Jon Gillies were put on that list on Tuesday making the net roster gain three players instead of five. Even still, the Devils only have three players on their Taxi Squad right now: Jesper Boqvist, Marian Studenic, and Kevin Bahl.

The franchise(s) history of the Utica Comets

How does this affect the Comets? When the Devils had their roster shortage, Studenic and Bahl were called up to help fill their roster. While it’s reasonable to expect that Studenic might have stayed in New Jersey for the time being without the Taxi Squad, Bahl would most likely have been sent back to Utica without it. Now, since Bahl is on the New Jersey Taxi Squad, he obviously won’t be available to the Comets and they will have navigate around his absence in their lineup longer than they thought they would have to.

Even though the Devils only have three players on their Taxi Squad right now this can and probably will change. Whether more get added or taken off naturally depends on the Devils virus situation (or any other NHL team for that matter), and that is certainly fluid and can change by the minute. If you’re keeping score at home, this article was published on December 28th, 2021 at 7:00pm EST – it’ll be interesting to see just how much roster change there is among the New jersey Devils (NHL), Utica Comets (AHL), and Adirondack Thunder (ECHL) between the time the was published and February 4th, 2022.

Is this an ideal solution to the current roster turmoil in the NHL? Obviously not for fans of the AHL and ECHL teams that will probably lose players when they weren’t expecting to do so – albeit temporarily. Still, if it helps reel in the number of postponed games, then it’s better than cancelling some or all of the season at any level. Let’s hope for the best.

Utica Comets reassign two players to the Adirondack Thunder

A pair of forwards will join the Thunder.

The Adirondack Thunder, the ECHL affiliate of the Utica Comets and New Jersey Devils, announced in Thursday morning that forwards Luke Stevens and Samuel Laberge have been assigned to the team by the Comets.

Note: The day after this article was published, Stevens was recalled back to Utica.

The recent returns of Fabian Zetterlund, Alexander Holtz, and Chase DeLeo have created a surplus in Utica and thereby necessitating some movement. After today’s moves, the Comets are now carrying fourteen forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders.

Another Akira Schmid shutout sparks Utica Comets victory over Belleville

Laberge started this season with the Adirondack Thunder and was then recalled to Utica. The twenty-four-year-old winger played in eight games for the Comets this season, totaling two goals, two assists, and nineteen PIM – seventeen of which came in last night’s game. The six feet, two inches, two-hundred-pound native of Chateauguay, Quebec has played in both the ECHL and AHL throughout his professional career.

Samuel Laberge taking a warmup skate prior to the start of Wednesday nights game. Photo Credit: Scott Kinville.

Forward Luke Stevens has played in four games for the Comets so far this season, totaling no points and no PIM. The twenty-four-year-old native of Duxbury, Massachusetts was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes and played last season for the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. Stevens will bring an element of size to the Thunder as he stands six feet, four inches tall, and weighs one hundred ninety-two pounds.

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The Adirondack Thunder next play on December 3rd, when they travel to Worcester, Massachusetts to take on the Railers. The Thunder have a 6-8-1 record thus far for the season and are in fifth place in the ECHL North Division. The Comets next game is on December 4th on the road as well against the Bridgeport Islanders. They are in first place in the AHL North Division with a 16-1-0-0 record.

Utica Comets recall Samuel Laberge from the ECHL

Laberge will be heading to the Utica Comets from the Adirondack Thunder.

Per https://echl.com and Armand Klisivitch of https://thepuckauthority.com, the Utica Comets recalled forward Samuel Laberge on Thursday November 11th.

The twenty-four-year-old left wing played his junior hockey for Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL – the same junior team that Sidney Crosby and Alexis Lafreniere, among others, played for. He turned professional in 2017, joining the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. He played two seasons for the Stars, posting a total of twenty-two points during his time with Texas.

Utica Comets win eighth straight game on Thursday

After leaving Texas, Laberge played the 2019-20 season for the Sorel-Tracy Blackhawks of the LNAH. The LNAH is an A level professional league in the Province of Quebec. After one season with Sorel-Tracy, Laberge played for the Allen Americans of the ECHL. It was with Allen that he had his best professional season, posting fifteen goals and twenty-two assists in fifty games played.

Laberge has played five games for the Adirondack Thunder so far this season, where he has no goals and five assists, to go with nine PIM. At 6 feet two inches tall and 198 pounds, Laberge will bring size and playmaking ability from the wing to the Comets lineup.

All statistics via https://hockeydb.com.

Utica Comets roster moves announced

Two players are going from the Comets to the Adirondack Thunder.

The Adirondack Thunder, the ECHL affiliate of the Utica Comets and the New Jersey Devils, announced on Wednesday that defenseman Michael Vukojevic and goaltender Marek Mitens have been assigned to them by the Devils and Comets respectively.

The twenty-year old Vukojevic, is a left shot defenseman who was a third round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils. He played twenty-six games with the Binghamton Devils of the American Hockey League last season, totaling one goal, and ten assists to go with thirty-one PIM. He has played one game for the Thunder this season, and did not see any game action during his time in Utica. With defenseman Colton White being sent to the Comets by the Devils, it makes sense for Vukojevic to go to Adirondack to get some playing time.

With the Comets assigning Mitens to the Thunder, it is expected that either Nico Daws or Scott Wedgewood will be coming to Utica soon. The twenty-three year old native of Latvia, played four seasons of NCAA Division I hockey for Lake Superior State, before making his professional debut in Binghamton last season. He compiled a 1-3 record while playing for the then New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate. Mitens did not see any game time while in Utica this season.

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