#USPHLPlayoffs: Utica Jr. Comets vs. Boston Junior Bruins

New England Division 

Boston Junior Bruins (7) at Utica Jr. Comets (1) 

All Games At Utica University Nexus Center, Utica, NY

Wednesday, March 6, 2:15 p.m. EST

Thursday, March 7, 2:15 p.m. EST

Friday, March 8, 2:15 p.m. EST (If Necessary) 


By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 


For the first time in a couple seasons, there is a chance that the USPHL Premier National Championships host will themselves be hitting the ice at the big event. The Utica Jr. Comets are already halfway there – by playing there, at the Utica University Nexus Center, in their playoff final series against the Boston Junior Bruins. 

The Junior Bruins come into Utica having previously eliminated the defending National Champion Northern Cyclones last week in two straight games, the early candidate for biggest shocker of the postseason so far. Don’t expect them to try to stop at one upset. 

“As a team, not much changes for us against Utica. They are fast and have a lot of firepower up front,” said Junior Bruins Head Coach Nevin Hamilton. “We need to play a solid defensive game, put pucks to safe spaces, and make sure our forwards get back to making plays with speed. With every shift that goes by, our job is to frustrate them and let them know they will have to earn their opportunities.”

Hamilton looks back on the series, during which the Junior Bruins were backstopped in an almost superhuman performance by January acquisition Matiss Bars (130 saves on 132 shots for a .982 save percentage). 

“I thought Game 1 vs. the Cyclones we played how we needed to as we committed to simple plays in our own zone for the most part and took it to them in the offensive zone by not playing back on our heels,” said Hamilton. “Game 2 was a different story where we allowed the Cyclones to control every aspect of the game. We couldn’t get out of our zone cleanly, we weren’t on the same page in the neutral zone, and we were very hesitant in the offensive zone which isn’t like us. 

“The only thing the Cyclones couldn’t control was the play of our goaltender. Matiss Bars made four or five of the best saves I have seen in a long time during the course of that series,” said Hamilton. “He is focused and it’s noticeable on and off the ice that he has elevated his game to another level.”

In the series, the Junior Bruins got offense from 10 different players, with only a pair – Mathyas Hlavac and Joey Ihling – registering two points. 

The Junior Bruins are going up against a real offensive buzzsaw in Utica. This includes the equivalent of two full lines and one defenseman all averaging over one point per game this year. This starts with Sean Tyrie, who averaged 1.85 by posting 48 points in 26 games with the Premier Jr. Comets. He also played in 18 NCDC games this year. Additionally, opponents have to have 360 degree vision as more offense is coming from Tighe Frazee (40 points in 25 games), Jake Hall (65 points), Issa Murakami (47 points in 33 games), Josh Gregoire (54 points), Trevin Ehrie (46 points in 37 games) and recently returned Caleb Turner (17 points in 14 games). 

Owen Hodgett led the blue line in average ice time after his January debut, posting 22:18 per game, and he’s part of a very strong D corps that also includes Alexander Pagliari (+39, second to Frazee’s +40 on the team), Cameron Gardiner (hits leader with 39 and blocked shots leader with 81) and SUNY-Fredonia commit Joey Demiglio (39 points in 40 games, 62 blocked shots). 

Setting up in the crease across from Bars, the Jr. Comets have several top options in net. Mason Jones’ .948 was the second best save percentage in the Premier among goalies with more than five appearances. Jones finished the regular season at 8-0, while Chad Lowe went 8-2-0-0 with a .937 mark and Brogan Colquhoun finished at 6-1-0-1.