UTICA — Brendan Woods didn’t need an introduction to the area.

That’s because the 25-year-old Woods, who joined the Utica Comets this week on a professional tryout contract, already has his share of connections to the Mohawk Valley.

His mom is former Utican Mary Sue Vance Woods, and family members still reside in the area. That connection has given him a place to stay as he continues his career after 195 games with the Charlotte Checkers and brief NHL stints.

“Utica called and I was pretty excited,” said Brendan Woods, who has made his fair share of visits to the area over the years. “My phone was blowing up when (family) heard the news.”

His dad is Bob Woods, who played 102 games as a defenseman for the Utica Devils. His parents met in Utica after one of the Devils’ games.

“He had all good things to say,” said Brendan Woods, who noted Comets’ Director of Hockey Operations Pat Conacher was his dad’s teammate. “He said the fan base is unbelievable.”

Woods also already knows one of his Comets’ teammates. He played with Joseph LaBate from 2011 to 2013 at the University of Wisconsin.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Woods joins the Comets with the team in need of help at center, head coach Trent Cull said. Woods will be available when the Comets play at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Rochester and 7 p.m. Saturday in Syracuse, he said.

“He’s a good fit for us so far,” Cull said.

Woods hopes to make an impact for the Comets with his “power forward” game.

“I’m willing to stick up for my teammates and have a little grit to my game as well,” he said.

Adapting to new standards

Carter Bancks became a quick statistic in hockey’s latest rules crackdown.

Thirty-seven seconds into the first regular-season game, Bancks was called for slashing. It was one three stick penalties in the opening frame.

During the NHL’s preseason and the AHL’s first regular season games, there’s been a focus on calling slashing penalties more by the book.

“It is a change for all of us,” said Bancks, who has played in 428 AHL games. “They’re sure cracking down on it.”

They aren’t new rules, but points of emphasis. Bancks, whose role as captain allows him to discuss calls, said there’s been good communications with officials.

“Basically anything that gets above the waist and has any bit of force on it is a penalty,” Bancks said. “You can’t slash the hands, you can’t slash the hips. You have to keep your stick below knee height if you’re going to be on someone’s stick.”

The Comets had 15 penalties last weekend against Toronto. Cull said that number has to be reduced.

“We have to keep moving our feet in order to avoid stick penalties,” Darren Archibald said.

Injury report

Forward Zack MacEwen practiced Thursday in a jersey usually reserved for no contact. MacEwen remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury, according to Cull.

Forward Cam Darcy is “day-to-day” with a lower-body injury, Cull said.

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