You needn’t be a hockey fan to feel the energy sizzling through town this week. Plug into it. That energy has actually been percolating all season long as an on-fire Utica Comets team has treated local fans to some of the best hockey seen around these parts in many years.
Last weekend, the Comets made it interesting during a Saturday night showdown with the Chicago Wolves before an overcharged crowd bathed in white at Utica’s grand Memorial Auditorium. Unlike the past squeakers in the series, the Comets didn’t need overtime to knock off the Wolves, and did so in regulation time with a score of 4-2. The win sent the Comets into the second round of the playoffs in the quest for the Calder Cup.
For local fans, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
Well, maybe it does. Tonight. That’s when the Comets will take on the Oklahoma City Barons in a best-of-seven series at the Aud. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
There are many pluses in the Comets’ success. First is the hometown pride this team has managed to generate throughout the community. Part of it is the fact that the team is headed by two guys — Frank DuRoss and former National Hockey League goalie Rob Esche — who have made a real commitment to their hometown. These aren’t your typical take-the-money-and-run investors, but two area natives who are here because they love this town and want to make it better. And their investment goes beyond hockey. That in itself should fire up fans.
The economic impact the Comets have had on the community is another plus. Downtown investors have hitched their wagons to these rising stars, and the playoffs are an added bonus for business.
And finally there’s the genuineness of the Comets players. Their presence on the ice is quite clear, but their community presence off the ice, too, has been noteworthy. In a recent meeting with the O-D editorial board, Esche said that the players truly like it here. That says a lot about a community whose welcoming spirit has been undeniable, especially during these playoffs.
So put on your game face and turn up the heat.
Let’s go, Comets.