Comets Prep for NY State Tour
Sports are built around rivalries. Whether it's the Yankees and Red Sox, Michigan and Ohio State, or what we all hope will be the United States and Canada game potentially slated for Friday, rivalries fuel sports and the Utica Comets are no different.
The hockey fans of the Mohawk Valley have spoken, and it's been interstate rivalries that have sparked the largest crowds that The AUD has seen this season. And as per usual when speaking about Utica Comets fans, it was spoken incredibly loudly.
Utica has played 11 times this season against foes from the Empire State, with six of those contests going down as sellouts. The Comets have averaged 3,726 fans against opposition from New York State, nearly 98 percent of the 3,815 seats that make up the Auditorium.
This weekend, the rivalries continue, only in different settings. The Comets have a three day, three game tour of the finest that Upstate New York has to offer. The team will travel to Syracuse on Friday evening, Binghamton on Saturday night and conclude their navigation in Albany for a Sunday afternoon matinee.
Syracuse is the regional rivalry, sparked by the short proximity between the two teams. With just 55 miles separating The AUD from the War Memorial, a trip to Syracuse is nearly as close for some Comet fans as a trip to Utica is. The Comets have had more success against the Crunch than any other New York opponent, with three points from four games.
Syracuse has at times served as a sister city to Comet fans. The eruptions at The AUD when it was announced that Syracuse University defeated Duke on Feb. 1 was one of the loudest roars of the evening. But those feelings went away in a big way after Crunch owner Howard Dolgon sounded off about Utica over the airwaves and drew the ire of Comets Nation. The support from Utica will be heavy on Friday evening at the War Memorial.
The Comets travel to Binghamton for the first time this season, after splitting a pair of contests against the Senators in Utica during December. The crowd at Broome County Arena might be the loudest of the weekend, with already less than 1,000 tickets remaining.
Binghamton comes in as one of the Comets' fiercest rivals on the ice, with 63 penalty minutes between the two teams on Dec. 27 in Utica, including two fighting majors, an instigating misconduct and a game misconduct. The game ended on a controversial 5-on-3 power-play goal from Mike Hoffman, which sent a loud Utica welcome towards the AHL All-Star as he earned the game's first star.
Albany remains the delicacy that Utica has still yet to taste. The Comets are winless through three games against the Devils, which includes an 8-3 drubbing at The AUD on Jan. 17. The Devils have outscored the Comets by a total of 15-6 this season.
A win over Albany would have extra meaning for the Utica fan base, with the Devils formerly conducting their trade in the Mohawk Valley. Last meeting, the Comets had the opportunity to avenge the demons of their past with a victory, but the Devils were dominant with a big win. Sunday afternoon's contest, in front of what will be a much less hostile crowd than there was in Utica, could be a perfect culmination to the rivalry weekend.
This weekend's set of games will be a telling one for the Comets. With the team sitting just nine points out of a playoff spot, two or three wins would go a long way to keeping Utica in contention. And as has been all season between Utica and fellow teams from the Empire State, in the spirit of the interstate rivalry, each game is sure to have a high level of intensity.
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