The Manchester Monarchs, their families and fans were down the runway, celebrating the winning of the Calder Cup.
Travis Green and his Utica Comets were answering questions about their fabulous season and how it ended just a bit short of their ultimate goal.
It hurt to lose, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Monarchs Saturday at the always loud and nearly always sold out Utica Memorial Auditorium, and dropping the best-of-seven-game series four games to one.
The Monarchs would ride back to New Hampshire with the cup, the American Hockey League’s championship trophy. The Comets would walk of the Aud with scores of fans still cheering their approval.
“I’m proud of them,” Green said of his players, who captured the AHL’s North Division and Western Conference titles with a 47-20-7-2 record, then fought through three playoff rounds before bowing to the fast and skilled Monarchs. “It’s tough to lose. If you lose, you want to lose playing your best. I thought we played our best game of the series.”
And he thought a lot of his players.
“You need good people on your team; you need good leaders,” he said. “They are not just good hockey players. They’re good people.”
Early goals by Adrian Kempe and Vincent LoVerde and very solid goaltending from Patrik Bartosak – 31 saves – fueled the Monarchs’ win. Comets captain Cal O’Reilly scored the lone Comets goal with 14.6 seconds to play, and Jacob Markstrom made 17 saves.
The 3,835 fans were up and cheering for much of the last five minutes, roaring in approval when Cal O’Reilly finally scored with 14.6 seconds left and cheering “Let’s go Comets” well after the finish. Nearly all of them stayed on to applaud the Monarchs as they celebrated their title.
Green, in his second season as a professional coach, thought things could have ended differently – the Comets lost two overtime games in Manchester, won Game 3 3-2, were not at their best in a 6-3 loss Friday, and lost the deciding game by a goal – and so did O’Reilly, the Comets’ captain and leading scorer in the regular season and in the playoffs.