On November 28, the Abbotsford Heat had won 13 or their last 14, and had only lost one game at home all season. On December 1, after our Comets came to town, the Heat are now losers of their last two, and both of those coming on home ice.
In perhaps the biggest weekend in Comets history so far, Utica tamed the red-hot Heat (yes pun included) with back-to-back wins against the AHL's best team to date.
Abbotsford came into the two-game set with a 17-4-1-1 record and 36 points on the year. The Comets? 4-11-1-1 and 10 points.
It was a matchup of the first team in the standings, against the worst team in the standings, and it was in Abbotsford's barn where they have played nearly flawless hockey this year.
But the Comets, who are now on a 5-game road winning streak and are 6-4 in their last 10, were more than up to the task. The team that just three weeks ago struggled mightily to get their first win is suddenly finding ways to get it done.
Just a few short weeks ago, it seemed as though the Comets were gripping their sticks too tight and every game seemed like an struggle to earn their first victory and begin to become competitive in the AHL. But now those three weeks seem like a distant memory, as every time the Comets take the ice they seem to have a chance to win the game, no matter the opponent.
Sure they have dropped some tough games in this stretch after it seems as though they are poised for a breakout, but they have been competitive in every one of them. They are playing with the type of confidence and tenacity that Utica fans have been waiting over 20 years to see.
As I've said before, while as of now their record may not show it, this team playing like playoff contender. If you didn't believe me before, please refer to the last two nights.
This wasn't a two-game sweep over the Charlestown Chiefs (pre Hanson brothers, of course). This was a two-game road sweep over the team with one of the best home records, and the most points in the AHL standings.
The Comets made a statement this weekend. In two hard fought matchups, Utica showed that it is not just here for its inaugural season solely to bring nostalgia and excitement back to the area, but that they are here to win games and compete for a spot in the playoffs.
The mindset that "just having them here is good enough," is not good enough for the players. While there is still plenty of season left to be played and a need for more consistency in the win column for this club to be truly legit, the players are hungry for more.
Should the Comets miss the playoffs this year, fans (like myself) will certainly be happy just to have them here, as the excitement of having a professional hockey team back in the city is enough to carry us through until next October. However, if the players have anything to say about it, we won't have to just be "content" with this team.
Between their involvement in charitable events, appearances around the community, and now their play on the ice, this is a team that wants you to fall in love with them. They want to make you die hard fans, and as of now, I can tell you that they are doing a fine job at creating that feeling.
This team wants to exceed expectations, not just meet them. They want to take it to the next level, and be competitive and not just entertaining (although entertaining, they certainly have been of late). They want you to come to a game, not just a show, and they want you to believe.
A first year team isn't supposed to do well right?
Well suddenly this first year team has begun to launch itself into the conversation, and regardless of what happens down the road, they have made themselves relevant.
This first year team just beat the best the AHL has to offer right now, twice, on the road.
Regardless of what their record is right now, I am looking at the future of our Comets with a feeling of great optimism. Because although they may still be in last place in the Western Conference for now, I truly don't think that they will be there for very long.
This team has now readied itself for the long marathon climb ahead, and while the mountain is still high, the Utica Comets have made me believe they can make the hike!
I am officially a believer in our team, Utica. After this past weekend, are you finally there too?