Last night history was made, as the Comets recorded their first ever point in the AHL standings. Though last night ended in a shootout loss, it was a major step in the right direction.
In the first meeting between the Syracuse Crunch and the Comets in the new thruway rivalry, 60 minutes weren't enough. Even 65 minutes were not enough to determine the game as Utica took the defending Eastern Conference champions all the way to a shootout in front of a raucous crowd at home.
While the game ended with the Crunch winning it in the shootout, the Comets finally made their presence known. In the first meeting between two professional hockey teams from Syracuse and Utica in 4 decades, the Comets showed the Crunch that they are here, and that they aren't going anywhere.
With emotions running high after the home opener, and with the new rivals coming into town, the Comets were able to strike first, earning their first ever lead in franchise history and igniting some hope into the crowd. In what ended up being an unbelievable back and forth game, Utica gave their fans something to cheer about, something to look forward to.
In a big rivalry matchup, the Comets played it down to the wire, and showed major signs of improvement that will surely resonate with Syracuse fans, and with other teams around the league. Now that the first point is out of the way, it is time to go grab some more.
Getting on the board first and early in the game is something that has gone against the Comets in all of their games before. However, last night, they were able to score first (and early) as captain Colin Stewart found the back of the net. This is something that Utica fans had not seen yet and was a huge morale boost for players and fans alike.
The Crunch would tie it in the second, however, for those looking for more positives, Joacim Eriksson was fantastic in net last night. He stopped 33 of 34 Crunch shots throughout the game, with some saves worthy of the highlight reel, and any weak play or nerves that he has exhibited in the past seemed to be gone. If Eriksson can build upon his performance last night, and continue to play that way between the pipes, the Comets may have found a mainstay in the goalie position that can be relied on on a nightly basis.
Aside from Eriksson's stellar play, the Comets forecheck and powerplay also looked much better last night as well. The team was able to win multiple battles to the puck, and sustained swarming pressure in the offensive zone creating various scoring chances thoughout.
This is something that has been plaguing the team in the early going as well. So far they have struggled to sustain a prominent forecheck, and keep the puck in the offensive zone for long periods of time. However, last night, it seemed as though the forecheck was there, that it may finally be coming together.
So while the team may have dropped another one, this time they stepped up to the plate. They played hard all the way to the end, and lost in a shootout that could have gone either way. But if the game itself was any indication, the Comets took a major step in the right direction and are hopefully on their way to stringing together some wins.
The Crunch now know that this won't be a one-sided rivalry, and that the Comets are here to play. Let's see if Utica can show the rest of the league what the Crunch saw from us last night, and start to build around last night's positives.
With a quick turn-around, the Comets get that chance tonight in an important early division matchup against the Hamilton Bulldogs. It's time for the team to make a statement, and tonight is the perfect time.
With the first point now in their possession, it is now time to get points 2 and 3 tonight, and hop right back into it with plenty of time to spare.
The Comets have shown signs of life, and there may be brighter days ahead.