It took an uncomfortable amount of time, but the Komets and coach Ben Boudreau got a deal done. Boudreau, who led the Komets to the ECHL’s Kelly Cup in his first postseason as a head coach, has re-signed with the Komets for the coming season.
His assistant coach, Olivier Legault, is also back for the season that begins Oct. 23 at Memorial Coliseum against the Wheeling Nailers.
The team also announced the signings of defenseman Corbin Baldwin and forward Semyon Babintsev.
“The Komet organization is very happy Ben is returning as Komet head coach,” general manager David Franke said in a news release. “Ben is a tireless worker, passionate about the Komets, and guided us to the Kelly Cup. Ben and assistant coach Olivier Legault are a good coaching tandem. We look forward to both of them coaching the Komets in defense of the Cup in 2021-22.”
The Komets and Boudreau had been negotiating a new contract even before the Komets defeated the South Carolina Stingrays in the Kelly Cup Finals, which ended with a 2-1 Game 4 victory at the Coliseum on July 2, but the two sides couldn’t find common ground.
Boudreau’s existing contract was extended through August to give them more time for negotiations – and sources said Boudreau interviewed for at least one assistant-coaching job in the higher-level American Hockey League – but Boudreau and Franke maintained throughout that they felt the union would continue for the Komets’ 70th anniversary season.
Terms of Boudreau’s new contract weren’t disclosed.
Boudreau, 36, has coached the Komets for two seasons, totaling a regular-season record of 60-40-13 and a postseason mark of 9-4. The Komets looked poised to make the playoffs in 2020 but the season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He was the team’s assistant coach from 2017 to 2019 and was given the top job after Gary Graham wasn’t retained. Boudreau became the first coach to win a Cup with the Komets since Al Aims guided them to the 2012 Central Hockey League title.
While Boudreau and Legault have spent their abbreviated summer recruiting players for the upcoming season, there’s still much work to be done. The team has 14 players under contract so far, but only six from last season: forwards Anthony Petruzzelli, Zach Pochiro and Oliver Cooper; defensemen Blake Siebenaler and Marcus McIvor; and goaltender Stefanos Lekkas.
Captain A.J. Jenks retired last week and longtime star Shawn Szydlowski had back surgery that will keep him out at least three months, though it didn’t seem as if the Komets were going to re-sign him this summer anyway.
Baldwin, 30, played 20 games last season with the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks and had one assist with 32 penalty minutes. He’d spent the previous two seasons with the Guildford Flames in Surrey, England, accruing three goals, 18 points and 141 penalty minutes in 107 games, and he played for the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads from 2015 to 2018.
“Corbin Baldwin is an excellent shut-down, tough-to-play-against, defenseman,” Boudreau said. “He has a history of proving he can play a gritty style game while being a solid veteran presence on the ice.”
Babintsev, 26, played for the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers in 2018-19, amassing 11 goals and 22 points in 32 games. He spent 2019-20 playing for ORG Beijing in China, coached by Graham, and skated last season in Poland.
“Babintsev has the ability to play up and down your lineup. He can be a first-line scorer or a shut-down role player,” Boudreau said. “The Komets have a history with international players and we expect Sem to have an instant impact.”
Notes: Stephen Harper, the Playoff MVP, has signed with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Harper, who was a rookie, had 11 goals and 31 points in 43 regular-season games, then added six goals and 13 points in 12 playoff games. The Komets still have his ECHL rights. ... Former Komets player Brett McKenzie has signed with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye.