NCDC 2022-23 Team Preview: Utica Jr. Comets

The Utica Jr. Comets are hoping they can set a bit of a straighter course through the 2022-23 season, moreso than its predecessor. The Jr. Comets were one of the hottest teams early on last year before cooling down. Now, Head Coach Louis Educate, entering his second year, has his eyes on two goals – returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2021 and advancing a record number of Jr. Comets to college hockey.

This year’s edition of the Jr. Comets will have a very different look from last year.

“We’re going to have more of a blue-collar team that has to come to work every day and just bring the lunch pail – play fast and heavy and put other teams on their heels,” said Educate. “We have guys with a lot of energy and speed, we are deep and we’re just going to be a buzzsaw.”

The team will be fueled by some strong leadership in the form of ‘03 forward Medrick Bolduc and ‘02 forward Mitchell Floccare.

Bolduc, he added, was a top two line center for the Jr. Comets and is “one of the most disciplined players I have ever coached or been around. Very high character, great work ethic and he’ll certainly be a leader for us.”

Floccare had a great start before a tough injury, and is “someone I’m excited about in all phases to come back. He’ll be a leader for us on the back end.”

A quartet of ‘04’s back for their second season includes Niko Benjamin, Peyton Kimball, Jason Shafer and Gabe Cull.

“All four guys should be in elevated roles this year. Looking at the depth chart, we have more guys who can play up and down the lineup. Last year, we had a true top six forwards, and now we’ll be more strength by committee,” added Educate.

Over the off-season, the Jr. Comets acquired Nick Amaya, a regular member of the Dineen Cup Champion Jersey Hitmen.

“An ‘02, he’s a veteran player who comes from an obviously very good Hitmen program,” said Educate. “He will certainly be a great addition up front for us.”

Coming up from the Jr. Comets’ Premier squad are ‘02 forward Andrew Martino and ‘03 defenseman Will Hilton. Both were USPHL Premier Atlantic West All-Stars last year.

“[Martino] has a great shot with the ability to score from anywhere,” said Educate. “He’s really worked on rounding out his game and it should pay off for him this season.

“Hilton plays a two-way game, he is a very fluid skater and his gap control in defending is very smooth,” said Educate. “He has a great first pass and he’s a great decision-maker.”

The Jr. Comets open Sept. 23 on the road in Connecticut against the Jr. Comets. Educate is very excited about the NCDC for this season.

“The league’s parity is probably the best it’s ever been, just in terms of the standings it’s so tight all year long,” added Educate. “I expect more of the same this season. There are no bottom feeders, so you cannot take a game off. You have to be ready to play every game.”