UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – It was a season of change for the Utica Comets, a change in affiliation, a change in color, a change in personnel, and of course a change in the number of fans allowed in the building.
It all started last April, rumors flying as avid Comets and Devils fans noticed a trademark filed by comets owner Rob Esche for the name “Utica Devils,” a callback to the glory days for many a Utica hockey fan. The official announcement came just a few weeks later, the Comets would be switching their affiliation from the Vancouver Canucks, the team that brought hockey back to Utica in 2013, to the New Jersey Devils.
There was skepticism, upstate New York had always been known as Sabres and Rangers country. But as the months passed and the season moved closer, those skeptics reverted back to what they had always been, diehard fans of Utica, New York and Utica hockey.
Over this time more information was released, excitement grew about prospects, a new head coach, and one very very good boy.
All of this leading to puck drop, skates on ice, and people in the seats. The season picked up speed, win after win after win for the team, 13 to be exact, an AHL record to start a season, but the winning didn’t stop there. Led by a pair of goaltenders at the top of the league, the team would go wire-to-wire in the North Division, locking up a playoff spot in early April.
And then a wait.
Waiting to see what players would come back from New Jersey, waiting to see who would return from injury, and of course waiting to see who their opponent would be in the North Division semi-final.
Then the answer, the Rochester Americans. The same team who opened the Comets’ season in October would have a chance to end it in April. There were few worries, the Comets took game one, but then some fear, dropping game two at home and game three right after. Optimism after a game four domination on the road, but ultimately disappointment in the end. The Utica faithful doing their best to will the team to victory, but to no avail.
The season didn’t end the way a lot of Comets fans pictured, but to say that it didn’t end the same way that it started, as a season of change, for the organization, for the fans and for the city of Utica, would be just plain inaccurate.