Its no surprise that P.C. Drouin, Colin Chaulk, Kevin Bertram, Guy Dupuis, David Hukalo and Nick Boucher were the first six players to hoist the Turner Cup on Saturday night, as 10,480 fans cheered at Memorial Coliseum.
As the veteran core of the Komets, they have been the most integral part of three straight Cup victories, an unprecedented feat in the franchises 58 seasons.
They produced when it mattered most. Drouin led the Komets in playoff scoring with 18 points, Boucher was 6-3 with a .915 save percentage, Dupuis led all defensemen with 11 points, Bertram was a menacing force in the defensive zone, and Chaulk and Hukalo showed their great skills at both ends of the ice. But the Komets Superb Six also lead the team in areas statistics cannot record.
Theyre a calming influence. They lead by example. And, perhaps more than anything, they make it clear that winning is the only option in Fort Wayne.
Only one team, the Cincinnati Mohawks, has won more consecutive IHL championships, taking five from 1953 to 1957.
Its gratifying, Chaulk said of the accomplishment. And its relieving when youve got the personnel you have here. There are 8,000 people in the stands every night, newspapers following the team, all these people working for the team, and youre expected to win. Ive tried to make that clear. I tried to make it clear back in 2003, when they hadnt made the playoffs the season before I got here.
Youve got to deliver. And if you dont deliver, youre not going to play here. Some guys cant handle the pressure. Some guys dont like it. But theres a good feeling now and youre happy to win.
Despite going 50-21-5 in the regular season, the Komets were more inconsistent than usual and missed winning a regular-season championship for the first time since the 2005-06 season. They did take the No. 2 playoff seed, though, and defeated Port Huron in the semifinals after falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, then took out fourth-seeded Flint in five games.
Some of the Komets nucleus is contemplating retirement, including Bertram, who is a member of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, Hukalo and Dupuis.
I think a lot of the guys on this team, even the older guys, are true professionals, Drouin said. We take care of ourselves off the ice, practice all year, care about this team and want to win. I think it would be crazy to change that. Obviously, we have ups and downs in the season. I had a slow start. Guy had a slow start. But the professionalism comes through and the hard work pays off in the end. I hope guys want to come back. I know I do. I want to keep winning championships like this.
Dupuis, the Komets captain, said hell take about a month to decide his future. If this was his last season, hes ecstatic that the veterans set an example for the youngsters.
Not all year were (the older players) the go-to guys. But most of the year, we were, said Dupuis, 40. The rookies played great, and the tweeners played great. Everybody chipped in. For the most part, in the playoffs, the veterans stepped up in the key moments and helped to bring this championship home.
There were some divisions in the locker room at times – the decision to start goaltender Tim Haun over Boucher in Game 1 of the playoffs wasnt well received – but by the end, everyone had contributed and the veterans helped get everyone playing for the same goal in the same way.
The leadership has been awesome, coach Al Sims said. They know how to talk to me. I know how to talk to them. They know when to tell me to calm down on the bench and be positive. Im in their ear when they need it. Its a great relationship and you can see how much they give for me, and Im very thankful to have that group with me.