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at Flint
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Radio: 1190 AM

Frustrated Komets push to improve special teams


The Fort Wayne Komets have their reservations with what they deem the inconsistencies of the IHL’s officials this season.

“It’s been inconsistent from night to night,” left wing P.C. Drouin said. “It’s really difficult to gauge what’s going to be called and not get called. It makes it hard on us players.”

It’s not surprising that the Komets have some gripes. They’ve faced more short-handed situations (48) than any team in the league. But they’ve also had 37 power-play opportunities, the third most in the seven-team league.

By their own admission, the defending-champion Komets have not been particularly successful in any area of special teams, and that’s something they’re looking to improve heading into tonight’s game at Flint, Mich.

“We’re not very good right now on special teams,” Drouin said.

The Komets have scored on 21.6 percent of their power-play opportunities, the fourth-best percentage in the IHL.

The team is dissatisfied with the success of its first unit, which is normally comprised of Drouin, Colin Chaulk, Guy Dupuis, Konstantin Shafranov and Matt Syroczynski, who has been with Norfolk of the higher-level American Hockey League for over a week.

The first team has totaled only two power-play goals.

“Our first unit is really struggling. It’s going to take a little more time for them, I guess, to get it going. And we’ve got to get more shots on net,” said coach Al Sims, who noted surprise at how many penalties have been called over the last two games.

Fort Wayne and Bloomington combined for 18 power plays in the PrairieThunder’s 5-4 victory last Friday. In Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Muskegon, there were 18 power plays again.

“It’s early in the year and not everybody is super comfortable with each other yet on the power play,” Drouin said. “We’ve got to take some responsibility to get better.”

The Komets’ second power-play unit, which normally has Leo Thomas, Rick Varone, Sean O’Connor, Matt Woodard and Frankie DeAngelis, has proved its worth with five goals this season.

Blair Stayzer has also netted a goal, filling in for Syroczynski on the first unit.

Fort Wayne and Flint rank second and third, respectively, in penalty minutes, so there should be a lot of special-teams action tonight at Perani Arena.

On Tuesday, the Generals added forward Bryan Smolinski, who has played 15 seasons in the NHL. He’s the fifth Generals player with NHL experience, along with forwards Pascal Rheaume and Tony Tuzzolino, defenseman Burke Henry and goaltender Jean-Francois Labbe.

The Komets’ penalty killers rank fourth in the IHL with a success rate of 79.2 percent, and Sims gave much of the credit to goalie Nick Boucher, whose save percentage of .927 is second best in the league.