Utica, N.Y. - After a tough ending to last season, the Utica Comets returned to the ice at the Adirondack Bank Center, Tuesday, for the first time this preseason as they get ready for the 2019-2020 season.
There are 31 players on the initial preseason training camp roster (17 forwards, 11 defensemen, three goalies). More are expected to join the team in the next week as the Vancouver Canucks trims its roster down to 23 before they open the NHL season on October 2.
Many new faces join the fold, but the Comets have a lot of returning guys and a solid veteran core back this year with players like Carter Bancks, Wacey Hamilton and Reid Boucher, among others.
The Comets struggled down the stretch last season thanks to a mountain of injuries and finished at 34-34-6, six points out of a playoff spot in the north division.
That left a lot of time over the summer to reflect and look forward this season getting underway.
"Sometimes it’s nice to have a long summer, but as a hockey coach you never want that," said third-year head coach, Trent Cull. "But that just makes the fall a little bit sweeter. We're excited to certainly get back to work for sure. It's a feeling of a little bit of I’m not going to say a sour taste in your mouth, but a little bit more longing and desire."
After the way last season ended, the returners are highly motivated to extend their season long this year.
"You can just kind of feel it in the dressing room and on the ice, guys are excited to get going," said Hamilton, entering his sixth season with the Comets. "[The early finish] gave us a lot of time to think about it and there were a lot of things that we couldn’t control last year like injuries, but guys worked hard this summer they came in in shape and ready to go."
The newcomers are also looking forward to entering the mix here in Utica.
"It’s something that your dream is slowly becoming ture, so it’s a special time for my family and I," said highly-touted rookie goalie, Michael DiPietro. "It’s a new chapter in my life and in my career and I’m excited to see what it has in store for me."
The team will play two preseason games this against the Binghamton Devils, with a back-to-back home-and-home beginning Friday, September 27 in Utica.
The regular season gets underway on October 5 in Binghamton against the Devils.