Utica, N.Y. - After two seasons with 72 points in 82 games for the Utica College Pioneers, Clinton native Gregg Burmaster has returned to the Adirondack Bank Center donning the blue-and-green of the Utica Comets.
After signing a deal with the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals for this upcoming season, Burmaster has earned a training camp tryout invite with the Comets to see if he can crack an AHL roster instead.
This is a chance for the former Pioneers captain to begin his pro career fully right here in his home area.
"[Playing professional hockey is] something that I've been waiting to do for along time now," said Burmaster. "I had a great time, great four years in college, but playing professionally is what I wanted to do."
It may be news to most, but for Burmaster who used to see the Comets players in passing at The Aud for the last couple of years as their roommate, it's something that's been on his mind for a long time.
Now that he's gotten the chance, he couldn't be happier.
"When I finished up our last game [with the Pioneers] last season, honestly my goal was to get back in here whether it be for the Comets or whether it be another team coming back and playing here," he said. "It's my goal to be making this team and that's what I'm going to be trying to do here."
Burmaster is one of four players on a tryout invite to Comets camp.
He and fellow former Pioneers standout Nick Miglio (San Antonio Rampage) are the first Utica College players to earn invites to AHL training camps, with both coming this preseason.
"I owe a lot to the [Utica College hockey] program and to Coach [Gary] Heenan here," he said. "They helped me a lot to get me to where I am, so it's special for sure to be one of the guys to push the program forward and to show that we can play."
Burmaster spent the summer training here in Utica, skating largely with Comets newcomer Carter Camper, who moved with his family to Utica over the summer after signing a deal with the Comets.
Camper, 31, is a 510-game veteran of the American Hockey League with 380 career points for eight teams over the course of 11 seasons. He has also played in three NHL games with the Boston Bruins.
Burmaster said that having Camper as a skating partner helped him immensely to prepare for this opportunity.
"I've learned a ton from him," Burmaster said. "Skating with a guy who that's been out here playing in the AHL gave me even more confidence heading into camp. He's helped me tremendously and I owe a lot to him."
One thing that the 24-year-old forward is focused on improving as he makes his way into the pros is versatility. Listed as a center, Burmaster wants to become a more well-rounded player able to play that position, as well as, either wing.
He said that could help him to be more valuable at this level.
Following his first official practice with an AHL team, Burmaster said he felt comfortable on the ice and that he believes he can acclimate to having to face some of the world's best players.
"I felt really good out there," he said. "The pace is definitely faster, but it's nothing that I can't handle I would say."
Last year's Pioneers leading scorer with 46 points, Burmaster played in four games for the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets following the conclusion of the collegiate season.
He said that experience also helped him to be ready for the speed of the pro game coming into Comets camp.
When asked to envision stepping back onto Adirondack Bank Center ice in a Comets uniform for a game, Burmaster couldn't help but smile wide at the possibility.
"It's going to be special," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to put that jersey on and to be out there in front of my other hometown crowd."