Comets Tales: Adam Clendening

by Don Laible

May 5, 2015

March 25, the day the Comets added their final piece to their defensive puzzle. Also known as the day Adam Clendening was assigned to Utica.

Sometimes things just work out the way they should. A few months back, on Jan. 29, the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks organizations made a swap. At the time, with the Canucks sending Gustav Forsling over to Chicago for defenseman Clendening, it didn’t seem too big of a deal for Comets fans.

Forsling, a fifth-round draft pick for Vancouver last year, remains at his home in Sweden. Clearly, Vancouver’s personnel staff knew what they were getting when they acquired the 22 year old Niagara County (N.Y.) native. At the time of the deal Clendening already had 185 games of American Hockey League experience with the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago’s primary affiliate) to draw from.  Toss in two full seasons of Hockey-East play with Boston University and a first taste of what it’s like to be in the NHL with four games as a Blackhawk, there was little doubt as to his importance to the Comets’ defense.

“I had a good time with Rockford and Chicago,” said Clendening, a first team AHL all-star in his rookie year of 2013-14. “It has worked out for the best. Over there (Chicago), I got my feet wet in the NHL.”

Loaded with an already impressive grouping of stingy defensemen, including Bobby Sanguinetti, Alex Biega and Frank Corrado, Clendening’s play continues to allow coach Travis Green to mix up lines and maybe sneak in a few extra goals. In Games 3 and 4 of the recently concluded Western Conference Quarterfinals with the Chicago Wolves, Clendening’s ice time paid off in dividends.

On April 29 at The AUD at 6:58 in the third period, Clendening scored on the power play. It was the former second-round draft pick of Chicago in 2011 who made it possible for Darren Archibald to light the lamp with the overtime winner.

Two nights later, Clendening had more scoring to offer. At 14:56 in the first period of Game 4, with assists from Cory Conacher and Sanguinetti, Clendening’s goal broke a 1-1 tie.

Clendening may not have been one of the better known Comets, but recently fans have taken more of an interest in what he brings to the team. And this appreciation hasn’t gone unnoticed by those dressed for the “white outs” in The AUD.

“By far, they are the best crowd in the league,” Clendening said. “I took a second to look around (on Wednesday night), the fans were cool. We deserved it.”

Being comfortable in an environment created by the Comets’ coaching staff has Clendening skating at his best.

“This team (Comets) plays my style – fast,” Clendening said. “We play hard and heavy, making it tough for the other teams to get to the net.”

And when not handling the puck, Clendening remains a pest to challengers. During Saturday night’s Game 5, Clendening at 10:15 in second-period action retrieved a floating puck behind Comets’ goalie Jacob Markstrom and slapped it to center ice. Seconds after clearing bodies from his own zone, there was Clendening feeding a pass to Sven Baertschi.

Going about his hockey business, still somewhat under the radar, Clendening is quietly having his presence felt. This observation is echoed by Green.

“I thought (Clendening) played a hell of a game,” Green said. “I like the way we defended (Friday night).”

Clendening’s durability is another strong attribute in what he brings to the rink each night. In his first two seasons with the IceHogs, Clendening didn’t play less than 70 games each campaign. He was on the same pace this season had it not been for 21 games in the NHL (Vancouver 17, Chicago 4).

Born in Niagara Falls and raised in Wheatfield, part of the Buffalo-Niagara Metro area, Clendening has played a lot of hockey in a relatively few years. As part of the 2009-10 U.S. National Under-18 team, coached by former Utica Devil Kurt Kleinendorst, a number of Clendening’s teammates rose to the NHL. This is the same squad that visited The AUD for an exhibition game with the Utica College men’s team.

Brandon Saad, Jack Campbell, Jarred Tinordi, Jason Zucker and Rocco Grimaldi were among those who were on the touring national team. It could be the national and international experience of participating in tournaments that has transformed Clendening into, at least outwardly, a confident pro.

When speaking to the media after Wednesday’s OT Comets victory, Clendening took a half dozen questions – sharing little emotion. With his hands relaxed in the pockets of his blue Comets hoodie, only a few shrugs of his shoulders offered any insight on how he felt. As he excused himself from reporters, Clendening’s walk exuded toughness and confidence; a true lunch pail presence.

If not now, sooner than later as the Calder Cup playoffs carry on, unsung is a label likely to be discontinued when describing Clendening’s play. Simply put, hero, should do.

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