UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - After weeks of practicing with their parent club, the Utica Comets finally arrived for the start of their own training camp Wednesday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The team has already played their first preseason game, a 5-2 loss Sunday night at Abbotsford, and most of them have been playing together at training camp for the team's NHL affiliate, the Vancouver Canucks.
But getting out on the Aud ice for the first time was a big deal for the Comets, who will begin their first season of AHL action this fall. It's the first time an AHL team has called Utica home since the Devils' affiliate left town in 1993.
Head coach Travis Green spoke with the media after the first of two afternoon practices Wednesday, saying he and his staff are not only testing the skills of all his potential players, but also their conditioning.
"It's been a long anticipation to say the least," said Green. "Three weeks in Vancouver watching our guys, monitoring how they're doing up there. We're hoping for the best for all the guys in Vancouver that they end up staying there. It's a little bit difficult at this level, when you're waiting, wondering what kind of players you're going to get sent down. It's hard to put together a lineup or project where you're going to be, but the way we want to play, how we want to develop these players is always going to be the same."
Darren Archibald is a forward who's played parts of the last two seasons with Vancouver's previous AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. The forward spoke to reporters Wednesday and said he and the team know how much it means to the community to have the AHL back.
"Everybody's excited to get going," said Archibald. "It's been a long training camp and we have a few more days here, getting into exhibition games, everybody's thrilled, we got a great group of guys in the room there... I've heard nothing but great things about the community, I hear it's a big hockey town... Expect big things."
Comets training camp will continue throughout the preseason, as the team prepares for opening night in Rochester, October 11th. The Comets will go to Hershey for their next exhibition game, Friday night at 7, then continue with a "home" game at Kennedy Arena in Rome, Sunday at 4:30 p.m. against Adirondack.