There is a fine line, Utica Comets coach Travis Green says, between winning and losing in the American Hockey League.
The Comets finally crossed it – to the good side – last weekend.
The Comets started their first AHL season 0-8-1-1, coming within an eye-lash of that elusive first win a couple of times. After losing 4-0 – not by an eyelash – to the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland last Thursday, they came back to edge the Monsters 3-2 last Friday, then made it two in a row with a 3-1 win Sunday over the Bulldogs in Hamilton.
“I think our team is learning how they’re going to have to play to win hockey games,” Green said. “They are learning how little things make a big impact. … There are little details, little areas in the hockey game that make a difference.
“Our defense has played a lot better. The goaltending has been a lot better. Our wingers have been playing a lot better on the walls in our end.”
[Comets captain Colin Stuart] agreed the Comets weren’t at their best in the Thursday loss to Lake Erie.
“We weren’t happy with it,” said the former National Hockey League forward. “We did some good things. We knew we were due. The magic ingredient is hard work. If we outwork the other team, we’re going to come out with a win, or be close.”
Stuart said if anything was different, it was just that all the pieces finally came together.
“There has been a concentrated 60 minutes of effort the last two games,” he said. “We were controlling the pace, which we have to do to win.”
That – playing with speed, making good decisions, playing well without the puck – is something Green has emphasized, and thinks the players are becoming accustomed to.
“You have to get outside your comfort zone,” he said. “Battle harder, competing maybe to the point you are uncomfortable.”
Green also said the addition the last three games of veteran Kent Huskins, a former Clarkson University star and a Stanley Cup winner with the Anaheim Ducks, has helped solidify the defense. With Huskins here on a tryout, Yann Sauve has been a healthy scratch the last two games, but Green feels that can be a plus for the young defenseman.
“Sometimes sitting out is a wakeup call,” Green said. “I sat out Peter Andersson and Patrick Mullen, and they responded with their best games. … I feel sitting back and watching can be a good thing.”
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