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.  

Many of the same members of last year’s 16U South Kent Selects Academy team that won at that level in 2018 got a chance to win again here in 2019 as an 18U squad. 

“It was great to win another USPHL championship, back to-back,” said captain Jack Robilotti, an ‘01 winner with last year’s 16U team that helped the 18U squad defeat the New Jersey Hitmen 3-1 on Sunday evening. “It was a great weekend lot of great competition and I look forward to the next couple years.”

After the first period, it was the Hitmen who had taken the early initiative and a 1-0 lead in the 2019 championship game. 

Oscar Worob cut across the slot and put one past Dominic Basse with 1:30 left on the clock. 

Selects countered not long after, at 12:53 of the second period. 

The game’s momentum took a turn towards the Selects' corner when the Hitmen were hit with a 5-minute penalty and game misconduct for a contact to the head call. 

The Hitmen actually killed off the Selects’ power play, but they were never again able to shift the momentum in their direction. 

“I give a lot of credit to the Hitmen. They battled hard the whole way, but we took it to them after that first goal and eventually got the “W,” the most important thing,” Robilotti added. 

The second goal was close behind, scored by Ryan Coughlin. The real backbreaker, however, was scored by Stephen Kyrkostas. He came in and put a backhand move on the Hitmen’s John Werber for what stood up as the insurance goal. 

“It was a good battle, a 3-1 win,” said captain Will Margel. “We fought hard. We were short of bodies throughout the game, but I’m glad we all stayed together and came out on top.”

In the third period, the Selects simply buckled down and did everything they needed to win. 

“It was a great weekend, and a great stamp to put on our resume,” said captain Nick Dineen. “ It was an all-around great weekend.” 

Dineen won as a 16U and last year as an 18U, as well. Head coach Chris Uber was an assistant coach with last year’s victorious 16U team before guiding this year’s title group. 

“It was a great weekend. As our assistant coach Karl Linden, who does a great job, says ‘It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, playoff hockey is hard, winning championships is hard,’” said Uber. “It takes a lot of work along the way. These guys bought in all the way.”

The Selects got to the final after winning a big semifinal game over the Skipjacks Hockey Club in overtime. 

“They’re all big,” Uber added. “It’s five games in three days. You have to get into the playoff mentality if you want to be here on Sunday,” said Uber. “We lost a tough one to Northwood. I’m proud of their effort to bounce back and be here today, to be able to create 51 minutes this morning and do it again this afternoon.”

USPHL 18U Playoffs: Hitmen, Selects Academy set to meet in Championship Game

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 02/24/2019, 3:45pm EST

The New Jersey Hitmen scored the only goal they would need to move on to the championship game just :23 seconds into the overtime period.

Rory Maurer scored the magic goal that broke the scoreless deadlock with the Islanders Hockey Club.

The Hitmen had won their pool with a 3-0 record heading into the Sunday morning semifinal, while the Islanders Hockey Club advanced with two wins and a tie for five points.

The New Jersey Hitmen outshot the Islanders Hockey Club, 37-16, during regulation - and 2-0 in overtime. Maurer jumped on the rebound shot put on by Oscar Worob. That put the Hitmen right back where they were last year - in the championship game against the Selects Academy.


Selects Academy defeats Skipjacks with OT goal

The Selects Academy had to come back to force the 2018 championship rematch. As late as the middle of the second period, they were still down 2-1 to the Skipjacks. Joe Santoro’s first goal stood up against two by the Skipjacks’ Nickolas Chiocca and Luke Day.

Right after the ice cut in the midpoint of the second period, the Selects came back with a goal by Will Margel to set a 2-2 tie to start the third.

The two teams played it cautiously in the third, putting just six shots on goal apiece as they kicked up the “D” play. It was slightly more of a shooting gallery in the overtime, as the Skipjacks outshot the Selects 8-5. However, that fifth shot by the Skipjacks is the one that found its way home - again off the stick of Joe Santoro.

“The puck got up to the point. Our defenseman moved it to the net, bumped up, hit the glass came out right in front,” said Santoro.

USPHL Midget Semifinal Fields Announced

By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com 02/23/2019, 11:30pm EST

Here is the schedule for the USPHL 18U, 16U and 15U semifinals for Sunday, Feb. 24. 



Islanders Hockey Club at New Jersey Hitmen, 10 a.m., Olympia Rink 1

Selects Academy at Skipjacks Hockey Club, 10 a.m., Olympia Rink 2


16U - Springfield

Junior Bruins at Skipjacks Hockey Club, 11:50 a.m., Olympia Rink 1

Selects Academy at Islanders Hockey Club, 11:50 a.m., Olympia Rink 2


16U - Bridgewater

Jersey Shore Whalers at New York Aviators, 9:30 a.m., BIA East Rink

Hartford Jr. Wolfpack at Pittsburgh Vengeance, 9:10 a.m., BIA West Rink


15U - Tyngsborough

Championship game

Philadelphia Hockey Club at New Jersey Rockets, 11:20 a.m. Skate 3 Red Rink

Bronze Game

Islanders Hockey Club at Jersey Shore Whalers, 11:10 a.m. Skate 3 White Rink


Consolation 1

P.A.L. Junior Islanders at Northern Cyclones, 9:10 a.m. 


Consolation 2

Springfield Pics at Jersey Hitmen, 9 a.m. Skate 3 White Rink

Game Format:
(17-minute Sudden Death Overtime format)