Ladies and gentleman, the long wait is over. The Utica Comets are officially in the win column!
History was made Friday night as the Comets beat the Lake Erie Monsters 3-2 to capture their first AHL regular season victory, marking the first time a Utica team has won a game in this league in over 20 years.
It was a big win for the team, but an even bigger win for the city.
Utica fans had been waiting for that moment ever since the Devils left in 1993, a chance for their team to get an AHL win and put Utica back on the professional hockey map! It may have taken longer than many of us would have wanted, but it doesn't matter now, the first one is out of the way and it couldn't feel any sweeter!
The Comets had been knocking on the door for quite some time now, with a couple of one goal losses, overtime and shootout defeats, but while they have come close, they just couldn't get it done. They just couldn't lock down that first win.
With the victory last night, the Comets have doubled their points in the standings from 2 to 4 and while still in the basement, now sit less than 10 points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with plenty of season to go!
Now let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, but a season that seemed to be spiraling towards an early demise has now been given some life; and with the proverbial monkey off of the team's back, we may see a rejuvenated Comets team take the ice and get onto a roll!
Ask any athlete in any sport, the first one is always the hardest. If you are a player looking for your first goal of the year, and it just won't come (see Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux prior to Friday), you tend to grip your stick harder, let frustration set in and thus make it even more difficult to get it done. This mentality is no different when it comes to an entire team. No matter how hard the Comets played, and no matter how close they got, they just couldn't lock down that first victory, and it began to take its toll.
However, after Friday night's win over Lake Erie all of that has now changed. The giant boulder on the player's backs has now crumpled and rolled off, and the team has the confidence and the knowledge of what it takes to win a game. This is the first step for the team moving forward, and this just may be exactly what they needed to finally break free of their slump. Like I said before, the first one is always the hardest, but after that more will come.
After a 4-0 loss to the same team the night before, it seemed like it would be very hard for Utica to put that game in the back burner and refocus on playing the same team on the same ice, on the road, the very next day.
As the game began déjà vu set in as the Monsters took an early 1-0 lead. However, rather than collapse and fold, the Comets were resilient as they would score the next two, to take the lead 2-1, and things were looking up. But hockey is a game of ups and downs, and a sense of "here we go again" started to set in after a mad scramble in front of Eriksson's net saw the puck cross over the goal line, giving the Monsters their second goal of the game and sending things into the 3rd all knotted up at 2, with the momentum swinging back towards the home team.
It was another blown lead for the Comets, and another crushing moment in their effort to notch their first victory of the season. However, the team would come out hard in the 3rd, determined to finally break free of the slump, and eventually their hard work paid off.
It was the perfect ending, as with only 2 minutes left in the game, the first ever captain in Utica Comets history would find the back of the net to give the team a lead it would not relinquish, and gave them the franchise's first ever win.
It was almost too perfect, the first ever captain giving the franchise its first ever win? If that's not a promising sign, then I don't know what is.
So now here we stand, the Comets at 1-8-1-1. It took almost a month to finally do it, and much longer than the fans and players alike had hoped, but the Comets are finally on the board with a W, and now its time is now to right this ship and turn the season around while there's still plenty of time left to play.
Now granted, I know it's only one win, and nothing to predict a Calder Cup championship with, but you have to start somewhere. With how hard this team has played, and how hard this first win was to earn, this could be exactly what the Comets needed to really break out.
After the first victory, the Comets will now look to begin their first ever winning streak and try to carry this momentum as they get set to take on the Hamilton Bulldogs this afternoon at 3 p.m., in the team's first game north of the border.
All it takes is one win to really get things going, and now that the Comets have that out of the way, its time to start building on that success and stringing some more together.
As I have said multiple times before, the first one is always the hardest. Well, for Utica that one is now out of the way...it's time now to look ahead and start something special.
The city has been ready for this for a long time, and the team has finally gotten it done. The first win is behind us, now let's go for that streak.
Buckle up folks, this could be the start of a very fun ride!
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