FORT WAYNE – The Komets and Evansville Icemen have played only 20 games over two seasons, according to the record books.
But really, the rivalry goes back to 1999. That’s when the Komets dropped from the old IHL to AA-level hockey in the UHL and began playing the Muskegon Fury, which was coached by Rich Kromm.
Kromm is the coach of Evansville and has seven players who skated against the Komets in the UHL or the second incarnation of the IHL while with Muskegon.
Foremost among those players is Todd Robinson, who played in Muskegon from 2000 to 2007 and 2008 to 2010, before joining Evansville last year. He leads the Icemen with 11 goals and 56 points in 41 games.
Fort Wayne’s longest tenured player is Colin Chaulk, who joined the team in 2002 and has faced Robinson in four playoff series. Muskegon beat Fort Wayne 4-0 in the 2004 UHL semifinals and 4-1 in the 2005 finals.
Fort Wayne beat Muskegon 4-2 in the 2008 IHL semifinals and 4-1 in the 2009 finals.
This season, the Turner Conference-leading Komets have won six of nine games against the Icemen, who are two points back.
The teams’ rivalry has become one of the CHL’s best, thanks to some interesting events:
On Dec. 17, Evansville’s Karl Linden received a major penalty and a game misconduct but wasn’t suspended, for elbowing Chris Auger in a 7-4 Komets victory. Auger missed nine of the next 13 games with a concussion.
In the midst of a scrum that night, Fort Wayne’s Jesse Bennefield slapped Nick Schneider, who wouldn’t fight.
That game also had a fight between Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Steve Makway, and there is still bad blood. On Dec. 30, Schrock and Makway fought at the opening faceoff. Later, Makway got a minor penalty, a major, a game misconduct and a one-game suspension for cross-checking Schrock headfirst into the boards, then hitting Schrock, who was on the ice, again in a 4-3 Fort Wayne victory.
Evansville’s Mario Boillard got 22 minutes in penalties for instigating a fight with Jamie Lovell late in a 3-1 win over the Komets on Jan. 14.
On Jan. 30, YouTube video surfaced of Evansville’s Matt Gens singing a song at a bar about how much the Komets suck.
Komets coach Al Sims knows the stakes of tonight’s game.
I expect our best performance in Evansville and I think our guys will give it. But I think it will be a real battle, Sims said. We’re comfortable in playing them, and I think we know how to beat them. Hopefully that formula will work.
This will be the first of five games in seven nights for Fort Wayne.