The Utica Comets are heading to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the third time in their five-year history.
In 2015, during only their second season, the Comets went on a magical run all the way to the Calder Cup Finals, showing all of Utica that they were “Built for This.” The Comets eliminated teams from Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Grand Rapids on their way to a final series against the Manchester Monarchs. Despite falling to the Monarchs in five games, the Comets left a mark on the community that has yet to be forgotten.
In the following season, the Comets once again qualified for the postseason, finishing third in the North Division; this earned them a first round matchup with the Albany Devils. Despite falling in four games, fans were treated to a 2-1 overtime victory courtesy of Alexandre Grenier during Game 3.
After two postseason appearances, the Comets have amassed a 13-9-5 overall record during the playoffs, including two series-clinching shutouts in 2015.
The 2017-18 season has seen the Comets face several injuries and 27 PTO signings. One of these PTO signings, Andrew Cherniwchan, has scored seven goals during his stint with the Comets.
“I’m just glad I can come in and do my part,” Cherniwchan said. “I get to play the game I love to play. I’m excited to get things going here as we wind down the season and get to playoffs.”
Getting to the playoffs has taken a full team effort. That effort includes rookies like Zack MacEwen, Griffen Molino, and Guillaume Brisebois chipping in on a nightly basis. For veteran Michael Chaput, a 2016 Calder Cup champion with Lake Erie, the grind has not gone unnoticed.
“We’ve had an up and down year with injuries and call-ups, to clinch with a few week remaining is huge for us,” Chaput expressed. “It’s been a next man up mentality. Trent’s done a fantastic job putting the best possible team on the ice. We also have a great leadership to keep us focused and motivated. It’s a competitive league night in and night out, you never know who’s going to be hot and healthy at the right time. We just have to stick with what has worked for us this season.”
The idea that everyone contributes mentality was no more evident than on Sunday night, when the Comets clinched a playoff spot with a 4-3 win over Binghamton. All four goals were scored by PTOs, two of whom scored their first goal as Comets, while Richard Bachman turned in a 38 save performance.
“It’s the most exciting time of the year,” said Comets captain Carter Bancks. “I think if you ask any guy in the locker room right now, they can’t wait to start this and get it going. This is what you play all year for. ... Once you get to the dance, you have got to lay it all out on the line.”