January 2, 2019 was a day that will never be forgotten by Utica Comets fans.
In the early afternoon, fan-favorite and record-setter Darren Archibald learned from Vancouver Canucks management that he had been traded to the Ottawa Senators. The news of Archibald’s trade set off a chain reaction that day, eventually ending with another fan-favorite turning in a memorable performance against an archrival while wearing the Comets’ blue and green for the final time.
Joining Archibald as a piece in the trade with the Senators was Canucks back-up netminder Anders Nilsson. It was Wednesday afternoon and speculation about Thatcher Demko’s future was spreading like wildfire. Vancouver was all-of-a-sudden without a second goalie and there was an all-star waiting in the wings of Utica.
Everyone knew. This was a move to get Demko to the NHL. After two-and-a-half seasons of stewing in Utica, it was obvious that he was ready to take the next step and leave his mark on the big club.
That night, Demko got the start against Syracuse and the vibe inside the Adirondack Bank Center was that of a farewell tour. Each and every fan in attendance appeared to be convinced that this would be his final time in a Comets jersey.
And they weren’t wrong.
Demko played like a man possessed that night against the Crunch, turning in a 31-save effort while leading the Comets to a 4-2 victory.
During his interview as the first star, chants of “That-cher Dem-ko” rained down from the fans in attendance during the victory.
“If this is my last one in Utica… I’ve loved it so much,” Demko said, giving his first-star interview on the ice as many teammates watched from the tunnel to the locker room.
It was his last one in Utica.
Two days later, Vancouver GM Jim Benning announced that the team had recalled Demko from Utica.
Demko went on to appear in nine games with the Canucks, posting a 4-3-0-1 record with a 2.81 GAA and a .913% save percentage. It was announced in April that he was being re-signed by Vancouver to a two-year deal.
His memorable season has continued into the off-season, as Demko is currently representing Team U.S.A. at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Slovakia.
The American Hockey League can be a weird place. When you’re rooting for a player, you hope to one day never see them again because that means they have created an opportunity at the next level.
Comets fans might never see Thatcher Demko again. And they couldn’t be prouder.