Utica Jr. Comets merge with Syracuse Stars for 2019-20 and beyond

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 03/15/2019, 1:45pm EDT

Founder and President of the Syracuse Stars Don Kirnan announced today that beginning next season, the Syracuse Stars will merge with the Utica Jr. Comets and rebrand as such.

Kirnan along with his daughter, Nicole Kirnan-Kelly, have run the Stars for 34 years, and will both join forces with Comets President Robert Esche, Vice President Adam Pawlick, and President of the Mohawk Valley Youth Hockey Association Tony Martino to run the Junior teams out of the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y. 

There will be minimal coaching changes, with Paul Kelly heading up the Utica Jr. Comets junior program. Paul, along with Nicole and Adam Pawlick, will have oversight over the remaining teams.  

The Stars are no strangers to the Adirondack Bank Center, as it is the arena they started calling their home in 2018.

The merger creates a direct path within the Jr. Comets organization beginning at Mites (youth hockey) and running all the way up to college hockey. 

They will add an NCDC (National Collegiate Development Conference), Premier, U18 Midget, U16 Midget team, and U15 Midget team to the Jr. Comets program. 

The Utica Jr. Comets junior program will develop and advance the careers of hundreds of talented young hockey players in the USPHL, with many continuing on to higher levels

Past graduates of the Syracuse Stars junior program have gone on to play in the NHL, AHL, OHL, USA Hockey U18 Team, US Olympic Team, USA National Junior Team, and Division I and III college hockey programs. 

Some graduates of the Syracuse Stars junior program include Esche, Pawlick, Tom and Tim Sestito, Tim Connolly, Brian Gionta, Dustin Brown, Alex Tuch, Nick Palmieri, and Ryan Callahan. 

The rebrand and expansion of the Utica Jr. Comets organization could not have occurred at a more opportune time, with the recent announcement of $22 million dollars from the State for the Nexus Center, a three-sheet recreation-based tournament-play facility that will be connected to the Adirondack Bank Center. 

Nexus will connect the threads of youth hockey throughout the Northeast, serving as the epicenter for the larger cities and demographics of Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and more. 

The Utica Jr. Comets program will utilize the Nexus Center for all of their local tournaments as well as training sessions, adding the sheet of ice at the Adirondack Bank Center to bring the total sheets up to four. 

“The opportunity to join forces with the Utica Jr. Comets is exciting for both the Syracuse Stars and our family,” said Nicole Kirnan-Kelly. “This is the most exciting time in the history of youth hockey in Central New York. The opportunity is there for kids to wear Comets jerseys from mites all the way through tuition-free juniors. We are grateful to Rob, Adam, and their tremendous staff; the resources afforded by merging these brands ensures that our mission of developing and advancing the careers of youth players through the ranks and on to college hockey will live on indefinitely.”

“We couldn’t be more excited to be able to create a direct path to college hockey through youth hockey,” said Esche. “The workability of Don and Nicole, along with Tony Martino, was paramount to our future vision for the sport. Finding the path to college has been one of the toughest things for area youth hockey players, and we are proud to have created one seamless pipeline to simplify these stages of their hockey careers.”

The next few months will be a transitionary period for the Utica Jr. Comets junior program as they rebrand from the Syracuse Stars; the process will include a new website, jersey design, and more.

Players who are interested in trying out for any Utica Jr. Comets team can head to www.uticajrcomets.org, where all news announcements and tryout information will be updated and posted daily. 

Players will have multiple options to try out for the Jr. Comets; the first of these opportunities will be on April 6 and 7 at the NCDC Early Bird. This tryout will be held at Meachem Ice Arena in Syracuse and costs $99. 

For all news releases and new information, be sure to follow Utica Jr. Comets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @UticaJrComets. 

The United States Premier Hockey League (“USPHL”) is pleased to announce the integration of the USPHL High Performance Youth Division into the Eastern Hockey Federation (“EHF”) starting in the Fall of 2019.  

The EHF will maintain its name and current 11-team Elite structure along with its multi-level, multi-member Tier 1 divisions under the USPHL umbrella.  

The EHF South will play a league schedule with the EHF South organizations, which will be supplemented by games with EHF North Teams to create a strong regular season schedule.  The mechanics of the North/South schedule integration are planned to be as follows:

  • The EHF South Division Teams will play EHF North Teams that have a similar competitive level including the EHF Elite Teams. The structure includes participation in an expanded EHF Invitational Tournament on Columbus Day Weekend, two (2) scheduling weekends of four (4) games each, for a total of eight (8) games, and an opportunity to play into the EHF North playoffs in March to determine an overall EHF Champion.
     
  • Team Placements for competition with the EHF North teams will be based on comparable rankings and a review by the USPHL League Office.

 

The teams participating in the inaugural EHF South season include the following 11 organizations competing at levels from Squirt through Bantam (U14):

Jersey Hitmen 

Philadelphia Hockey Club

New Jersey Rockets 

Jersey Shore Whalers

Palmyra Black Knights 

Hartford Jr. Wolfpack

CP Dynamo 

Connecticut Jr. Rangers

New York Aviators  

Wolverine Hockey Club

P.A.L. Jr. Islanders

 

Applications to participate in the EHF South Division are still being accepted for the 2019-20 season.  

Please visit the USPHL website at www.usphl.com or the member organizations for specific information regarding team registration and tryout process.
 

New USPHL/EHF TV spot debuts during Bruins pregame show on March 2

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 03/02/2019, 10:30am EST

The new USPHL/EHF TV spot made its debut during the pregame show prior to the March 2 Boston Bruins vs. New Jersey Devils game on New England Sports Network. 

The new TV spot focuses on the Best Coaching, which can be found across all divisions in the Best League with the Best Competition. 

 

The TV spot will be seen again both pregame and in-game during their March 7 game against the Florida Panthers and on March 12 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Don't forget to enter the Boston Bruins Giveaway, where the USPHL and EHF will send four lucky fans to the March 7 game! Enter at BestPlayHere.com/Boston-Bruins-Giveaway. 

USPHL, EHF TV spot to air during Tuesday night's Boston Bruins game

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 02/26/2019, 3:45pm EST

The United States Premier Hockey League and the Eastern Hockey Federation are proud to announce their TV spot will be airing on Tuesday night, the same TV spot that debuted on February 12.

This will be the third airing of the TV spot. 

Look for the USPHL/EHF TV spot during the pre-game coverage and during the Bruins game, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. EST. 

There is still plenty of time to enter the contest for four Bruins tickets to the March 7 game at Boston's TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. You can enter online at www.bestplayhere.com/Boston-Bruins-Giveaway

Keep an eye out in just a few days for our next and newest TV spot, currently scheduled to debut on March 2. 

It is all part of the USPHL and EHF's promotional partnership with the Bruins, which includes these TV spots, a feature on Boston Bruins Academy@NHLBruins social media updates and the ticket giveaway. 

South Florida Hockey Academy joins USPHL as Affiliate Member Organization 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 02/26/2019, 1:30pm EST

The United States Premier Hockey League is pleased to announce that the South Florida Hockey Academy will join the USPHL Midget Divisions next year as an Affiliate member organization. 

South Florida Hockey Academy was founded in 2015 by former NHL players Radek Dvorak, Olli Jokinen and Tomas Vokoun along with longtime player development coach Mikko Saarni. In addition to the above-mentioned NHL alumni on the staff, the South Florida Hockey Academy also includes coaching staff members and NHL alumni Sergei Krivokrasov and Ray Sheppard.

“Our idea was to bring a top-level hockey academy to Florida to offer the local players a chance to play against the top competition without leaving home to play and live up north,” said Saarni.

“We paired up with two outstanding preparatory schools (Saint Andrews School and North Broward Prep), where our out-of-state players can live and study while playing for the Academy,” said Saarni. 

South Florida Hockey Academy will field USPHL Affiliate teams next year in the 18U and 16U Divisions, playing mainly at USPHL Showcase Series events. 

Both the full-season 18U and 16U Divisions of the USPHL regularly yield in-season NCAA commitments to Division 1 schools, and feature some of the highest-ranked teams in the United States, according to MYHockeyrankings.com. 

At the time of this announcement, South Florida Hockey Academy held the rank of 20th overall among Tier-1 programs in the U.S., and its 18U program was also in the top 50 nationally. 

“With a schedule of 70-plus games and an opportunity to practice twice a day on the ice, SFHA can offer a perfect setup for any player that wants to combine top level hockey and education,” said Saarni. 

 

For more information on South Florida Hockey Academy, go online to sfhockeyacademy.com. 

 

For more information on the United States Premier Hockey League, go online to USPHL.com.  

USPHL 16U Championship: Pittsburgh Vengeance come back to win Bridgewater title

By James Murphy / USPHL.com 02/24/2019, 11:45pm EST

Tyson Springer and Dylan Frazier each had a goal and an assist and Ethan Isaly made 27 saves as the Pittsburgh Vengeance held on for a 4-3 win to clinch the 16U Bridgewater Championship. 

“Unbelievable! Incredible!” Vengeance head coach Brian Ramm said following the clinching win. “It’s been a long season. We got banged up; had a lot of injuries and had to fight through a lot of adversity and I’m very proud of them for the job they’ve done.”

In the first five minutes of the second period, the Vengeance scored three goals in 2:43 and two in :30 early in the second period to blow the game open and make it 4-1. Springer scored at 2:17; then Evan Victor at 4:30 and then Matthew Purdue scored what proved to be the game-winner at 5:00 of the middle frame. 

“I’m feeling excited for this win,” a smiling Purdue said after the game. “We really bared down there at the end and got it done.”

New York opened the scoring at 5:28 of the first period on Nick Rogers’ first goal of the game before Pittsburgh made it 1-1 on Frazier’s goal at 7:26. After falling behind 4-1 in the second, the Aviators stormed back on goals by Yakov Yakzhin and then Rogers again to make it 4-3. Instead of crumbling though, the Vengeance regrouped and buckled down for the win. 

Ramm was impressed with the way his team handled the Aviators comeback bid at the end of the second and then held on for the win.

“It was actually pretty calm, they handled it well,” said the elated bench boss. “I think earlier in the year when we got into situations like that, we’d have a bit more difficulty, but they’ve been battling through it all year and I think they handled it very well, stayed calm and kept their composure.”

Ramm is in his last year coaching competitively and his son Nick is a forward on the team and had an assist in the championship win, and his Dad, his former coach was also on the bench for the playoffs. For the Ramm’s Sunday was a day they will never forget!

“It’s been 40 years [in hockey], I started when I was three and this is my last year coaching competitively,” Ramm said. “So this is a great way to finish it off. It means a lot. My Dad has been there for me and he was the guy who put me on the ice first. We put Nicholas on the ice together when he was four years old in Amherst, New York. So to have him (his Dad) here and to be with my son, it means a lot.”

 

Semifinals

In the semifinals, the Vengeance put up a 5-spot on the Hartford Junior Wolfpack, winning 5-2. Michael Vasko and Tyson Springer had a goal and an assist each and Nick Ramn, Dominic Desjardins and Evan Victor all scored for the Vengeance. Ethan Isally was sensational between the pipes for the Vengeance, making 44 saves and constantly crushing any hopes of a Wolfpack comeback.

The Aviators got to the final in dramatic fashion as they staved off a Jersey Shore Whalers two-goal comeback in the third period to win 3-2 on a Yakov Yakzhin power-play goal 8:56 into overtime. Yakzhin finished the game with two goals and an assist. Matt Mezzina also scored for the Aviators and added an assist. Between the pipes, Corey Finnigan held the fort down with 41 saves.
 

The whole season came rushing back to the captains of the Islanders Hockey Club, standing as 2019 USPHL 16U champions.

The Islanders were 1-3 early on in the season, and they thought of those dues they paid. They also thought of how they won eight of their last nine of the regular season, and all three of their pool games in the 16U tournament.

“It was a tough start to the season, but we got our heads back into it, and look where we are now,” said captain Patrick Somerville.

The Islanders, who eked out a 3-2 victory against Selects Academy in the morning semifinal, came back just a few hours later and posted a 5-0 victory over the Boston Junior Bruins. For captain Nathan Terski, everything that happened along the way led them here.

“We put a lot of work and time in this season. Not a lot of days off. We started this morning, we got the ball rolling and kept the momentum going through the night,” he said. “It was a whole season of ups and downs, especially at the start of the season. Now we’re here and it just feels great.”

Somerville got the scoring party off to the start with a shot from the high slot, going up 1-0.

Captain Johan Rosenquist scored two straight - at 4:28 and 10:01 of the second period.

Nick Ahern sent him a sweet pass across the top of the slot for the first, and Rosenquist (assisted by Gerald Cutone) blasted a hard shot for the second. Rosenquist had scored 60 points in the regular season to earn the scoring title for the USPHL 16U Division.

“It’s great. We worked really hard through the season and today, for sure,” said Rosenquist.

Terski scored the Islanders’ fourth goal with 25 seconds left on the second period clock. Along with scoring one more in the third (by Brett Worster), the Islanders slammed the door defensively, allowing the Junior Bruins just six second half shots.  

Deniz Akyurek stopped all 25 shots he faced for the shutout victory in the title game. 

The trio of captains are all excited with all the options ahead of them, as they talked about the NCDC and potentially NCAA Division 1 as their next steps.

USPHL 16U Playoffs: Islanders Hockey Club, Junior Bruins advance to final

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 02/24/2019, 5:15pm EST

The Islanders Hockey Club and Boston Junior Bruins both pulled off massive upsets en route to their appearances at Sunday night’s USPHL 16U National Championships.

The Islanders put together a three-goal third period comeback for the ages against Selects Academy. With their win, they orchestrated an upset that - based on MYHockeyrankings.com - sent the No. 68 team forward and the No. 14 team on its way home.

The Selects’ Ryan Miknich got on the board at the 5:42 mark of the first period, and then he assisted in the second period on the goal by Nicholas DeSantis.

The Islanders just turned up the volume to ear-splitting levels in the third period, coming relentlessly at the Selects. First, it was Patrick Somerville from Gerald Cutone with 15:59 on the clock to keep the Islanders in it.

They tied it roughly six minutes later, at 10:06. This was off the stick of Garrett Alberti, assisted by Brendan Fitzgerald and Conor Lally.

Then, Patrick Sommerville fired the shot that sneakily found its way behind the Selects goalie.

“Obviously, I cruised the zone, I was the third man back,” said Sommerville. “I kept my head high - my linemate Matt Mothon gave it to me. I fired it at net and luckily it went in.”

 

Junior Bruins pull off momentous comeback

The third period was where the bulk of the action was for the 16U semifinal between the Boston Junior Bruins and Skipjacks Hockey Club.

The Junior Bruins went in with a modest 1-0 lead off a goal by Greg Peltz assisted by Caidan Hess.

Chris Delaney put the Junior Bruins up at the 3:01 mark of the third period for a 2-0 lead. However, the Skipjacks were ready to pounce.

Between the 12:21 and 7:41 remaining in the third, the Skipjacks scored three straight - off the sticks of Nicklas Albrecht, Cade Baker and Jack Straub for a 3-2 lead heading into the late stretches of the third period.

Within 39 seconds of each other, the Junior Bruins’ Jaiden Moriello and Mike Santonelli scored to ultimately give the Junior Bruins the win.