Return home

Halonen trying to learn as much as he can with Utica Comets

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
email / twitter
Posted 4/15/22

UTICA — The end of the pro hockey regular-season usually signals opportunities for players finishing their time at the college level. American Hockey League teams usually get a few players added to …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Halonen trying to learn as much as he can with Utica Comets

Posted

UTICA — The end of the pro hockey regular-season usually signals opportunities for players finishing their time at the college level.

American Hockey League teams usually get a few players added to their respective rosters, giving the 20-somethings on-the-job training as they begin their pro careers. 

The Utica Comets are no different with the recent addition of 23-year-old forward Brian Halonen as well as 24-year-old center Garrett Van Wyhe, who signed this week to an AHL deal for the rest of the season and the 2022-23 season.

Halonen, a Minnesota native who played four seasons at Michigan Tech, is a few weeks into his stint with the Comets after signing an amateur tryout contract with the team at the end of March.

He also has a two-year entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils that begins with the 2022-23 season. It means Halonen, an undrafted free agent, could see more time with the Comets after this season depending on how things shake out.

How has the adjustment to the pro game been for Halonen so far?

“It has been adjustment, for sure,” said Halonen, who was named an American Hockey Coaches Association All-American earlier this month and was among the Hobey Baker finalists as one of the best players at the college level. “The pro game is a lot faster. Everybody is bigger, faster and stronger. There’s been a learning curve. I’m still on it. I’m just trying to get better every day. I just want to keep improving and do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Halonen got a big milestone out of the way in his second game with the Comets, scoring his first pro goal on the power-play during a 3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley on April 2. 

“It is always fun to score and chip in offensively,” said Halonen, who had 53 goals and 52 assists in 139 NCAA games.

“But, right now I’m just trying to learn as much as possible. I’m not concerned with the offensive, I guess. I’m just trying to be responsible defensively and learn as much as I can and continue to develop. Whatever role I’m put in, I try to do my best.” 

It is a small sample, but Halonen has been getting an opportunity on the power-play while also playing on a line mostly with prospect Aarne Talvitie. Another forward has rotated into the other wing slot.

“It takes a little bit to get adjusted (for players coming out of college at this point this season). You have to learn everyone’s name and you’re staying at hotel and so on and so forth,” Comets coach Kevin Dineen said. “I think (Brian) has been fine. One thing you notice is that he’s very responsible. He’s worked right into our system. He’s all ears and wants to understand how we play the game. … I think we’ve seen improvement every game. He’s off to a good start in his pro career.” 

Halonen echoes what many on the team have said about the Comets first season in Utica as the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate: The group – with a good blend of veterans and prospects – is welcoming. He’s looking forward to the playoff experience with the Comets, who have clinched one of the five spots in the North Division. 

“The guys have been awesome. They’ve been helpful in adjusting to the pro lifestyle,” Halonen said. “The Devils really stood out (when signing) in how they run their organization. This team in Utica is a real strong team. I thought it would be a good experience for me to see what pro hockey is in the playoffs. I thought that was great opportunity for me.” 

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here