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#NCDCAwards: Utica Jr. Comets Captain Payne Gatewood Named New England Division 2023-24 Defensive Forward Of The Year

By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com  


The National Collegiate Development Conference is proud to announce that the Utica Jr. Comets’ Payne Gatewood was named the New England Division 2023-24 Defensive Forward Of the Year. 

Gatewood (‘03/Boulder, Colo.) joined the Jr. Comets last year out of the Nichols School, and enjoyed a strong introduction to the NCDC, putting up 22 points in 50 games, while being penalized for only two minutes. Returning this year, Gatewood was named Captain of the Jr. Comets and led the way throughout the season, which saw the Jr. Comets return to the postseason for the first time since 2021. 

The SUNY-Geneseo commit scored 27 goals and 31 assists for 58 points, the highest point total for any Jr. Comet in their NCDC history going back to 2017. He leaves junior hockey ranked third in Jr. Comets career scoring history with 80 points. 

“Payne was not only our leading scorer but our most complete player. He was relied upon in every situation. Payne exemplified the identity of our team and the team we want to continue to be in the future,” said Head Coach Louis Educate, earlier named the New England Division Coach Of The Year. “When your top forward is also the guy you look at in every crucial defensive situation you know you have one hell of a player.”

He was second on the team with a +16 rating. He blocked 30 shots this year and registered 182 takeaways. Gatewood was also the Jr. Comets’ leading performer in the faceoff circle, winning 468 draws of 875 for a 53 percent success rate. 

“I take a lot of pride in playing a 200-foot game. Junior hockey has really taught me the importance of defending the net and breaking the puck out quickly, which I have worked on a lot over the past couple seasons,” said Gatewood, in an e-mailed statement. “I know at the collegiate level these abilities become even more important, so I am very honored and grateful to be receiving this award as I look forward to the next chapter of my hockey career!”

“Payne was our Captain, he was the heartbeat of our team this year, and he was a major reason for our team success – certainly a guy that any team would want,” Educate added. 

The NCDC joins the Utica Jr. Comets in congratulating Payne Gatewood for being named the New England Division 2023-24 Defensive Forward Of The Year. 


About The NCDC

The National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) was founded in 2017 as the Tuition-Free Tier II conference of the United States Premier Hockey League, itself founded in 2012. The NCDC consists of 18 teams in three divisions, two on the Eastern Seaboard and one in the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Utah and Idaho.

The NCDC has sent more than 250 alumni to play NCAA Division I hockey, and more than 900 overall into NCAA college hockey. There were also more than 250 alumni in pro hockey around the world during the 2023-24 season. Former NCDC player Drew O’Connor has become a regular with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, Collin Graf recently signed and has played with the San Jose Sharks, and there have been seven players selected in the NHL Entry Draft from the NCDC.

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