Road Warriors: The Utica Junior Comets Eye the USPHL Playoffs

by Adam Pawlick

Road Warriors: The Utica Junior Comets Eye the USPHL Playoffs 

Throughout history, one would be hard pressed to find teams that spent their entire season playing only on the road. The Utica Jr. Comets’ NCDC and Premier teams have spent the entire 2020-2021 hockey season on the road; The ENTIRE hockey season spanning from September thru March was spent playing away from their home, the Adirondack Bank Center. From the beginning, the Jr. Comets were committed to carving a path to play, despite the ongoing pandemic. “Our players have a small window of time to experience the development and exposure of playing Junior hockey. Since day one we have been committed to keeping the teams playing in a safe and responsible manner,” commented Nicole Kelly, Director of Junior Hockey. The Jr. Comets are members of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL), one of the very few Junior leagues to begin the season on time and continue to keep teams on the ice consistently playing.

Playing Junior hockey during the pandemic proved to have its daily challenges from the onset. Between games being postponed due to COVID and others being changed due to evolving mandates, every game was left to chance until puck drop. Weekly testing protocols and diligence allowed the teams to continue to plod their way through the season. It became evident that due to increasing restrictions on travel and public sports venues throughout the Northeast, the Jr. Comets would have a difficult time fulfilling the commitment of finishing the season. The uncertainty within the geographic footprint of their division led the Jr. Comets to join the USPHL’s group of teams that packed up and moved to #HubCityTampa for seven weeks. The two teams combined to successfully play 39 games down south, while staying at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Florida. The teams practiced, trained, and played games at various arenas in Tampa and the surrounding areas.

On February 18th, the two teams returned to quarantine in Utica before rushing to pack in as many games as possible prior to the regular season deadlines. Upon their return, the NCDC team was right back to their traveling ways. The team will finish with zero games played at the Adirondack Bank Center in a season that spanned from September to March. The Premier team hosted one lone home regular season game versus a New York state based opponent, the Elmira Jr. Enforcers, on February 24th at the Adirondack Bank Center.


The NCDC team looks to lock in the fifth seed in the Southern division over their one remaining regular season game. Playoffs will begin the week of March 8th.

The Premier team finished the regular season on February 28th in sixth in the Mid Atlantic division with a record of 14-26-2, earning a playoff berth. The first round of playoffs will see the Premier team traveling to Philadelphia Hockey Club. The two teams will kick off on Thursday, March 4, at 1:00 for game one. Game two takes place on Saturday, March 6th at 4:55, with Game three taking place on Sunday at 11:35 pm (if needed).