After a fantastic start to 2014, a 3-2 home win on New Year's Day over the Lake Erie Monsters, the Comets have not enjoyed the month of January as much as we may have hoped.
Since that game, Utica has gone 0-3-1, only managing to pick up one point in a heartbreaking, stunning overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Barons on Thursday. In that game, the Comets were up 2-1 before the Barons broke through with just 4 seconds left in the 3rd period to tie the game, only to score again 17 seconds into overtime to win it.
A game like that hurts. No matter how much a team tries to put a game like that in the back-burner and move on, it is much easier said than done.
The Comets had it, 2 points right in front of their faces, with just a final push needed to nail down the victory on the road, and potentially change the momentum of this four-game road trip, but unfortunately in the blink of an eye, the whole complexion of the game and trip overall had been turned upside down.
So how do you come back from a game like that? Well, for the Comets they would head into Cedar Park to face the red-hot Texas Stars, and fall down 4-0 even though they actually played pretty solid hockey to begin the game.
But that's just what happens when you're in a rut, the bounces don't seem to go your way, hard work seems to go by the wayside when the other team comes down to your end of the ice, and makes it look easy to score even after sustaining pressure for minutes at a time at their end to no avail.
The Comets had actually out-shot the Stars 14-13 in the first period, but had nothing to show for it as they entered the 1st Intermission down 2-0 due to 2 goals by AHL leading goal scorer Travis Morin. In the 2nd period, Utica's misfortune would continue as Morin scored again, registering the natural hat trick (3 goals by an individual player in a row), and eventually would fall down 4-0 after a goal by Colton Sceviour, who tied his teammate for the league lead in goals.
At that time, the Comets would pull goalie Joe Cannata in favor of recent call-up Mathieu Corbiel, who made his AHL debut with his team down big time.
At this point the game could have gone two very different ways.
Either the Comets could fold, and the game would really have gotten out of hand against an unproven goaltender at the AHL level, and they could have gotten blown right out of the building; or the team could rally around their new goaltender and make a push to make it a game again.
Well, as the Comets have proven all year long so far, no matter what type of adversity comes their way, they will always remain resilient and continue to work until that final buzzer sounds. And luckily for fans, they chose the latter.
After Corbiel made a couple of difficult and key saves to begin his AHL career, the Comets used his play to shift the momentum of the game, and spark an exciting comeback.
It began as an innocent goal as the 2nd period winded down, with Cal O'Reilly putting in his 3rd of the year to make it 4-1 at the end of 2. Still, at this point, the game had the feel of being over.
However, the Comets came out hard in the third, and with Grenier and DeFazio scoring goals just two minutes apart to make it 4-3 with 10 minutes still to go in the game, things got very interesting, very quickly.
From there, the Comets would dictate much of the play, coming in hard on the forecheck, and generating multiple scoring chances, and even a couple of shots off the post to make it a nail biting final 10 mins, and it really seemed as though the improbable comeback would be completed in thrilling fashion.
On the other end of the ice, Corbiel made some spectacular, and acrobatic saves on some quality scoring chances to keep the Comets in it and allow their shot at a comeback to continue.
Unfortunately, with just under a minute to go in the game, Utica pulled Corbiel in favor of an extra attacker, and almost immediately after, Texas put it in the empty net to ice it. The comeback came just short, and as close as they had come to tying the game, it left a very bitter taste to eventually lose it 5-3.
However, despite being handed their fourth straight loss, this game actually became a positive step for the Comets.
Of course it hurts to lose any game, and especially four-in-a-row, but last night the Comets once again showed their true colors. After falling down 4-0, the team battled back to make it a game, and against a team as hot as Texas, that should be something the Comets focus on moving forward.
With exactly half the season in the books now, and the Comets still in the basement, they have to continue to look at the positives from each game, forget about the negatives and move on. There's no time for the team to dwell on losses anymore, they have to quickly move on and get ready to take the momentum they gained in the near comeback to push them come tomorrow when they face the San Antonio Rampage, who are one spot ahead of them currently in the standings.
This team has a lot of ground to make up in a short amount of time if they want any hopes of even considering a playoff spot, and so therefore, everything has to be taken positively so that they can continue to build.
With Archibald and Eriksson back up in the NHL with the Canucks, the Comets have to find a way to get it done without some key players, and for that, they need some other players to step up.
After a shaky night for Joe Cannata, who had played well of late, Corbiel stepped in with a very impressive debut, stopping all 17 shots he faced, including a few dazzling saves late in the game.
This is another positive for the Comets moving forward. With Eriksson bouncing up and down to and from the NHL now, the Comets need to have two quality goaltenders on the roster to have any hope at a run. If last night was any indication, then it appears that Utica has just that with Corbiel now wearing Blue and Green.
If his play last night was any indication of what we can expect moving forward from the massive 6'6", 200 lb. goalie, then Comets fans should be pretty excited about the future of this club.
So while they weren't able to get it fully done last night, the Comets once again showed the fans and the league that no matter what, they are never out of a game.
Their spot in the standings may be very underwhelming, but the heart and resiliency that they play with during every game is hands down the best in the AHL. This is what makes them a special team, and this is what should make fans proud during their inaugural season.
With each game, the Comets are becoming more and more a part of the Greater Utica family, and show on a national (and even international) scale just how much of a hard-working blue collar city Utica really is. Their play is a reflection on our community, and so far they have shown that no matter what obstacles may sit in the way, Uticans will never stop working to give it their all.
Their record lands them in last place in the league, but their determination to out-will their opponents puts them among the AHL's elite. The Comets are never out of it no matter what the score, and all it takes is a little belief that they can get it done.
Now they just need to take it one game at a time, and whatever happens, we all know that at the end of the day the team can say that they left everything they had on the ice.
For that, we need to stick with them, as they have done for us.
Just one game at a time.
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