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Komets

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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, in his second year with the Komets, exemplifies speedy, young CHL players.

Sizing up the Komets from 5 angles

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Frankie DeAngelis will bring his defensive prowess to the CHL.
Boucher
Sims

5 facts

Guy Dupuis is 40, the oldest player on the team. The Komets’ captain has missed only eight games the past five seasons, totaling 68 goals and 301 points. He also grabbed three league-wide Defenseman of the Year awards.

Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Matt Ward were teammates at Neumann University in 2008-09, winning the Division III national championship. They exemplify the speedy, young players in the Central Hockey League.

Six of the Komets’ defensemen were on the team last season. With defensive play being the bread and butter of the Komets’ systems, Dupuis, Frankie DeAngelis, Danko Mironovic, Bobby Phillips, Keith Rodger and Brandon Warner must pick up where they left off – giving up a league-low 2.41 goals per game.

Al Sims, 57, has coached the Komets for seven seasons dating to 1989. He has won four playoff championships, two regular-season titles and never missed the postseason.

P.C. Drouin has averaged more than a point per game in each of the last six seasons, including 26 goals and 82 points in 76 games last season.

4 games of interest

Today vs. Rapid City: This game pits the reigning IHL-champion Komets against the CHL-champion Rush, and it will be an early litmus test for how the Komets’ speed and overall talent match up in the new league.

Nov. 12 at Evansville: Chances are there will be a rivalry with Evansville, which has several members of the now-defunct Muskegon Lumberjacks. And this will be at the intimate quarters of 1,600-seat Swonder Arena.

Feb. 5 vs. Wichita: The second of back-to-back games at the Coliseum vs. the Thunder, which has a lot of feistiness with former Komets player Lance Galbraith and defenseman Jason Goulet, along with scorer Jesse Bennefield. This should be a heated game.

March 11 at Colorado: Much like the Komets, Colorado spends a lot, attracts great players and wields a lot of power within the league. This could wind up being a rivalry on and off the ice.

3 best players

Mathieu Curadeau returns to Fort Wayne after a season in the ECHL, and all indications are he will be one of the top players in the CHL. He averages more than a point per game at this level, is a solid defensive forward and hits hard. The only problem with Curadeau could be an AHL team calling him up.

Nick Boucher has been in net for each of the last three Komets championships, and he was the runner-up for the IHL’s MVP award in 2009. There may not be a better pressure goalie at this level. He has taken the Komets back from 3-1 series deficits twice. Last season, he was 23-10-3 with a 2.49 goals-against average and three shutouts.

Frankie DeAngelis was terrific as a rookie last season, tallying nine goals and 41 points in 73 games. His plus-31 rating was best among IHL defensemen. He will have to be solid on offense and defense and be a special-teams ace for the Komets to enjoy success in the CHL.

2 points of concern

Leadership must be found from one or several players. The departure of Colin Chaulk, who is playing in Italy this season, will be felt not only on the score sheets but also in the locker room. Chaulk was the lead-by-example guy, also not afraid to get in guys’ faces. There are several players who have pledged to be better leaders – Dupuis, Curadeau, Boucher, Leo Thomas, Sean O’Connor – and they must step up.

The roster lacks a power forward. Last season, the role was filled by Matt Syroczynski, and he wound up being the playoff MVP. With less money to spend, the Komets were unable to get a top-line forward who can muscle his way around the net. This means either Olivier Legualt’s offensive game must blossom, or the Komets must get more balanced scoring.

1 major theme

Championships have become commonplace in Fort Wayne – the Komets have three in the past three years, four in the past eight – but things are going to get a lot harder in the 18-team CHL. The Komets must not be complacent, and they must be willing to change if they find their speed, size or strength is lacking in this new league. What worked in the IHL might not automatically work here.

jcohn@jg.net

– Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette

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