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Comet Tales: A Rivalry In the Making


Don LaibleThe more you study the similarities between the Utica Comets and Rochester Americans, the closer the two cities seem to get. Just 135 miles separate the two American Hockey League markets. In professional sports, this constitutes being neighbors. A quick two-hour drive east or west on the New York State Thruway brings you to either The AUD or the Blue Cross Arena. When these two organizations meet, it’s expansion versus established, and from the the previous regular season meetings between these two teams – it’s old-time hockey, in the making.

Just this past week, it has been deja vu when it comes to their on-ice performances. Last Sunday in Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum, the Comets finished off a successful road trip by beating the Bulldogs 3-1, giving Utica their second win in a row heading into this Friday’s match with Rochester. This past Wednesday, the Americans were guests of the Bulldogs for a matinee game. Same winning score, 3-1, for the Americans, as they readied for their first trip to The AUD.

Although the Comets and Rochester have only squared off twice this season, they will have much more in common for game number three (of nine scheduled match-ups). Back on October 11, the Comets inaugural game, both teams combined for 44 penalty minutes. The Americans  outscored Utica 4-1. Interesting enough, while Pascal Pelletier registered the Comets first goal in franchise history, he did so with assists from Alex Biega and Peter Andersson. By the way, Biega, for two seasons prior to sizing up a Comets jersey, skated for the Americans.

The second weekend of the season, the third game for the Comets, saw coach Travis Green’s club make a return to Western New York. The two teams met within a week and the outcome, although ending with a second Americans win over Utica, saw players from both squads become even more acquainted with each other.  The final score of 6-4 was far closer than the numbers presented. Heading into the later stages of the game, Rochester’s 4-1 lead faded to 4-4.

The Western Conference’s West Division rivals put up 24 penalty minutes, when the final horn sounded.  That ran the total of box time for the two teams at more than one hour-plus, in just two games. During the October 19 matchup, the Comets scored three unanswered goals in the third period. Americans’ Jerome Gauthier-Leduc’s first goal of the season with 2:55 left in regulation gave the edge to the home team.  Comets Captain Colin Stuart, who wore the ‘C’ for Rochester during the 2011-12 season, tallied his first goal of the 2013-14 season.

There are more links between personnel with both Utica and Rochester teams. Chris Taylor, an assistant coach for the Americans, and Comets Head Coach Travis Green, were teammates in the New York Islanders system during the 90’s. They were coached by Butch Goring when skating for the Capital District Islanders(Troy, NY) while in the AHL, and on the Island when on the NHL roster.

Darren Archibald is back with the Comets, after an eight game stretch with the Vancouver Canucks, to renew acquaintances from the first two times these teams met earlier this season. As Rochester plays on in the franchise’s 58th season, the Comets continue to lay the foundation for a successful first AHL campaign.  When old and new collide, special moments usually are created, and remembered for a long time.