After flying high heading into the holiday break last week, the Utica Comets are coming off of two tough losses in row this weekend.
Earlier in the season, the team had a problem getting going early and striking first. However, the last two games against the Binghamton Senators and Hamilton Bulldogs, their problem was maintaining an early lead.
The Comets scored first in each of the two games, Darren Archibald against the Sens and Alexandre Grenier against the 'Dogs, but those leads quickly vanished.
Utica has gained the confidence to start games off hot, but unfortunately, they now have to figure out how to protect that lead so early in the game.
Clearly this team now has the scoring touch to go along with the grit we've seen all season, but they still need to add some consistency to really break out and be a serious threat.
With that being said there are definitely plenty of positives to take away from this weekend even though there are no wins to show for it.
First, it appears that a new Comets' star is forming (gotta love those astronomy puns), as Grenier seems to be emerging as one of the team's top scorers. He really shined bright this weekend, recording three goals and one assist for four points in two games.
He now has 19 points in 29 games so far, and if he can continue his strong play, he will become another scoring threat for other teams to worry about down the road.
In addition, Archibald, who is quickly becoming a fan favorite here in Utica, continues to do what he does best, set the tone with big hits, big fights, and big goals. He does whatever he can to get the crowd into it, and being there this weekend, I can tell you that the crowd definitely responds.
Whenever he does anything out there the place erupts, and chants of "Archie, Archie, Archie" ring out from the stands. He too had a solid weekend, with two goals and two fights to his name.
It's not often that you see an enforcer with offensive ability in hockey, but in Archibald, the Comets have just that.
On the other end of the ice, the Comets lost a big piece to their puzzle when goalie Joacim Erikkson was called up to the Big Club due to a Roberto Luongo injury. But as Comets' Director of Communications, Mark Caswell Jr. said, "That's the nature of the biz."
However, Joe Cannata stepped up to the crease (you thought I was going to say plate didn't you?), and played solid in his absence so far.
Sure he had a couple of hiccups this weekend, but entering his new role as the indefinite starter, that is to be expected. Overall though, Cannata made some spectacular saves and fought off some tough shots to give the team some comfort moving forward with him in net.
Another positive to take away from the weekend is the team's resiliency. In the game against Binghamton, the Comets came back from a 3-2 deficit (after giving up the lead twice), in order to tie it at 3, with the Sens scoring late in the 3rd period to win it.
But the point is that even after giving up multiple leads and falling behind, this team still kept fighting and found a way to creep back in it.
Then against Hamilton, Utica, who again gave up a lead, fell down 3-1 at some point before storming back and scoring with just over a minute to go to tie it up, for their first 3rd period comeback in franchise history. They ended up losing in a shootout, however, they did earn another valuable point in the standings.
And as they are finding out very quickly, every point counts.
So while the team came out of the holiday break with two straight losses, there is still plenty to be proud of. They seem to be getting better and stronger with each game, and now seem to have a chance to win every game they play.
They are still on the outside looking in, but this team has shown that they won't quit. Whether it's during a single game, or throughout the course of the season, the Comets will continue to work hard until the final buzzer sounds.
Because of that, Utica should never be counted out of it.
They may have struggled in the beginning, but the Comets have given us all something to cheer about lately this season. With 2013 coming to an end, and their next game on New Years Day, the Comets will look to begin 2014 with a major run towards a playoff spot in mind.
Whether they get there or not, we know one thing for sure...this team will never stop working for it.
And for that, we should all be proud.
Happy New Year everybody, and Let's Go Comets!!!
Till next year...
Connect with Spencer on Facebook and Twitter.