The Komets have had a lot success with players from the University of New Brunswick. And the newest former UNB player, goaltender Samuel Harvey, has a chance to be the best of them.
Harvey, 23, was 14-2-0 with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage in 2019-20 for UNB, parlaying that into a tryout last season with the San Jose of the American Hockey League, one step below the NHL. Harvey impressed with the Barracuda, going 2-4-1 with a 3.26 GAA and a .904 SP for a .500 squad that ranked 24th out of 28 AHL teams in defense (3.53 goals against per game).
“The experience was really valuable,” said Harvey, who hails from Alma, Quebec. “I was fortunate enough to have a (tryout) after Christmas. I didn't have my many expectations when I went to San Jose; I was supposed to be the third goalie. But I ended up playing seven games and that was good for me. I was really happy about it, and I think I did pretty well. I was happy with my game, and I improved a lot during that year, so I'll be ready to go this season.”
While another netminder could still arrive from the Vegas Golden Knights, the Komets already feel their biggest strength may be their goaltending tandem of Harvey and Stefanos Lekkas, who last season was 7-2-2 with a 2.15 GAA and a .914 SP for Fort Wayne. Lekkas also played seven games for Rochester, the AHL's worst defensive team (4.00 goals against per game), and was 1-5-1 with a 4.32 GAA and a .863 SP.
He finished last season as the Buffalo Sabres' backup.
Harvey is OK with the prospect of having to compete with Lekkas, or whoever, for playing time.
“My goal is to get better day after day. I'll control what I can control, but there's competition at every level, and I'm ready for it and I'll embrace it,” Harvey said.
Harvey, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, relies on his instincts and athleticism to keep the puck out of the net.
“I'm not a big goalie, so there's a lot of compete in my game,” he said. “I've got to play big at the top of my crease, but at the same time I want to be in control and I want to be calm in my net. It's how I play the game and I want to get better game after game.”
Harvey helped Rouyn-Noranda to the Memorial Cup, the championship of major junior hockey, in 2018-19 when he was 35-8-0 with a 2.08 GAA, a .926 SP and four shutouts in the regular season.
In that Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postseason, he was 16-3-1 with a 1.97 GAA, a .924 SP and four shutouts, then in the Memorial Cup tournament he went 4-1 with a 3.40 GAA and a .882 SP as the Huskies overcame the champions of the Ontario and Western Hockey leagues.
He had a shot at another title with UNB in 2019-20, but the COVID-19 pandemic ended that season early. Harvey was on a UNB squad that included Oliver Cooper, Marcus McIvor and Matt Murphy, who each helped the Komets to the Kelly Cup last season alongside former UNB players Matthew Boudens and Randy Gazzola.
The Komets' five former UNB players last season had combined to win 13 University Cups in college.
Heading into a home-and-home exhibition series with the Wheeling Nailers, which begins tonight in West Virginia, the Komets have four former UNB players in Harvey, Boudens, Cooper and McIvor.
“It's good for me to have friendly faces here in the locker room. I can talk to guys and they know me a little bit. It just feels good to come here,” Harvey said. “I know UNB is a good spot for Fort Wayne, which likes the players who have gone through our program, and hopefully we can continue that good relationship this year with Fort Wayne and UNB.”
Note: The AHL's Hershey Bears have assigned defeseman/forward Will Graber, 25, to the Komets. He had one goal and four points in 20 games last season for the Bears, as a rookie out of Dartmouth. He also played 11 games for South Carolina of the ECHL and had an assist. ... The Komets released forward Tanner Hildebrandt.
Komets at Wheeling
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: WesBanco Arena, Wheeling, W.Va.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Coliseum
Note: No local radio