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Komets

  • Ex-Komet Lang league's MVP
    Mickey Lang, who began the season with the Komets before demanding a trade, was selected the ECHL's MVP by coaches, reporters and media relations directors Friday.
  • Szydlowski learning mental side of game
    You may not recognize this Shawn Szydlowski, the one who hits a lot, the one who has become a pivotal player for the Komets, the one who scores the game-winning goal with 8.
  • Komets look to steal another one
    The goal for the Komets was simple: Steal one of the first two games. That was accomplished Thursday with a 2-1 victory over the defending-champion Reading Royals – forward Shawn Szydlowski’s shot from the left circle with 8.
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Ice Chips
Trivia
1. Who is the Komets’ all-time playoff scoring leader?
2. Which current Komet was taken highest in the NHL draft?
3. Which Fort Wayne player formerly played for Bloomington?
4. Bloomington coach Jason Christie played against the Komets in 1997-98 for what team?
5. Which two former Komets play for Bloomington?
6. Who holds the Komets record for most saves in a non-overtime playoff game?
7. Who has the team record for most penalty minutes in a playoff game?
8. Who are the three teams to beat Fort Wayne in a Game 7?
Odds and ends
•Despite losing 3 of 10 games this season, the Komets are 34-23-5 all time against the Bloomington PrairieThunder. This will be their first playoff meeting.
•The Komets’ 31 regular-season victories were their fewest since 1996-97, when they won 28 in a season that was 16 games longer.
•The PrairieThunder didn’t finish above .500 or make the playoffs in its first four seasons.
•The Komets’ leading scorer against Bloomington this season was Tab Lardner with five goals and nine points in nine games. For Bloomington, Jason Dale had four goals and 12 points in 10 games against Fort Wayne.
•Fort Wayne center Colin Chaulk is the team’s active leader in playoff points with 21 goals and 64 points in 74 games. He’s led them to four championships since 2003.
Trivia answers
1. Len Thornson with 53 goals and 127 points in 92 games.
2. Michael Ratchuk, 42nd overall by Philadelphia in 2006.
3. Leo Thomas from 2007 to 2008.
4. The IHL’s Manitoba Moose.
5. Keith Rodger and Travis Granbois.
6. Scott LaGrand with 57 in a loss to Cleveland in 1997.
7. Jeff Worlton with 32 in 2005 at Rockford.
8. St. Paul in 1960, Grand Rapids in 1979 and Kalamazoo in 1992. The Komets are 7-3 in Game 7s.
Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
From left, goalie Kevin Reiter takes on Guy Dupuis, Colin Chaulk and P.C. Drouin during Thursday’s practice for tonight’s playoff opener.

Experience required

Komets relying on core four veterans in 1st CHL playoffs

From left, Guy Dupuis, Nick Boucher, Colin Chaulk and P.C. Drouin have all won three championships in Fort Wayne.

By their own admission, the Komets underestimated the caliber of play in the CHL, and they overestimated the talent they had at the beginning of the season.

That they wound up struggling so much is, therefore, not surprising. They lost 16 of their first 21 games and wound up 31-27-8 to take the sixth seed in the Turner Conference.

The lineup today, when the Komets open their first-round best-of-five series against the Bloomington PrairieThunder (37-22-7), is much different than it was when the season opened Oct. 16.

Gone are Brandon Naurato, Keith Rodger and Olivier Legault. Present are Colin Chaulk, Tab Lardner and Michael Ratchuk.

But something that never changed with the Komets, from the planning phase until today, was that they expect their bevy of playoff experience to pay off.

“I think that will be key for our team, to rely on that experience,” general manager David Franke said. “That’s why Guy Dupuis is here, and Colin Chaulk, P.C. Drouin and Tab Lardner, those guys. They shine in the postseason. We’re hoping that our up-and-down season will be more of an up for the playoffs.

“One of the reasons we have an older team is to help us in the playoffs. The nerves calm down and the jitters are taken away. It’s worked for us in the past. Will it work this season? I don’t know.”

The Komets won the last three championships of the IHL, even recovering from a 3-1 deficit against the Port Huron Icehawks in the 2008 finals and the 2010 semifinals. The IHL was smaller with only six or seven teams, compared with the 18 of the CHL, but the Komets prided themselves in the IHL on never getting rattled despite the circumstances.

“In the past, our experience benefited us this time of year,” goaltender Nick Boucher said. “The guys have been there through all the battles kind of know what it takes. The adversity, there are so many ups and downs in the playoffs, and you have to know not to get too down or get too high.”

The Komets have four players who were a part of the three IHL championships: Boucher, Chaulk, Drouin and Dupuis, plus coach Al Sims.

Mathieu Curadeau, Sean O’Connor and Leo Thomas won two IHL titles with Fort Wayne. And Frankie DeAngelis, Bobby Phillips, Kevin Reiter and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock all have won championship rings.

Some of these players – Curadeau, Drouin and Dupuis – have had a statistically disappointing season and are hoping to turn it around in the playoffs.

“The guys who have been here for years and years, they seem to have another year once the playoffs come and we want the same guys who have been there to do it again in the postseason,” Boucher said. “We’re going to need them to step up, obviously.”

The PrairieThunder, which is in its fifth season, has never been in the playoffs before. That would seem to give the experience advantage to Fort Wayne. However, as Franke pointed out, the Komets have probably played more games over the last four years than any other team at the AA level and fatigue has caught up with them.

The Komets went 3-7-0 against the PrairieThunder in the regular season.

“I really hope our experience is going to pay dividends,” said Lardner, who played for Port Huron in the 2008 playoffs. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have been here before and won before. It’s going to be a new season, and it’s going to be a battle.”

jcohn@jg.net

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