FORT WAYNE – Eleven times this season, the Komets have played or will play three games in three nights. It’s not ideal for players needing rest to give their best effort, but it’s typical in minor-league hockey.
Fans are most likely to attend games on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, so teams schedule as many games as possible for those nights.
“You’ve just got to accept it and deal with it,” said center Colin Chaulk, whose Komets (30-15-2) begin a string of three in three by hosting the Bloomington Blaze (17-25-5) tonight at Memorial Coliseum.
The Komets are in the midst of 16 games in 28 days, though Chaulk might not play tonight because of concussion symptoms.
The following is a primer for how players prepare for three in three:
Be mentally strong
Players should be conditioned well enough to play three in three.
“But it’s mentally draining and you make mental mistakes,” Komets coach Al Sims said. “Physically, we’re all in shape to play. But it’s the mental part of the game; the stronger players mentally, like Chaulk and Brett Smith, you won’t see much of a drop-off. But some of the other guys will struggle.”
Don’t look too far ahead
The players studied video this week of the Blaze but probably won’t think about Saturday’s opponent, Allen, until they look at a scouting report before the game.
The Komets face opponents up to 14 times per season and are more concerned with their own systems.
“By now, everyone knows what they’re doing,” Chaulk said. “Are you going to execute? Are you going to go into the hard areas? Are you going to win that puck? That’s what it comes down to, really.”
Leave something in the tank
It’s just not feasible to go all out, all the time, when playing three in three.
“You could tell in the third period (of last Friday’s 4-1 victory over Quad City), we weren’t really going after it. We were going more conservative,” Chaulk said. “Maybe you’re saving something it the tank. You could say that.”
It’s hardest to keep up the intensity if you’re playing in penalty-laden games, because typically the same players are always on the ice for special teams.
“Those are the games that will kill you,” Chaulk said.
Take care of yourself
It’s especially difficult to get enough sleep if there are road trips.
Players eat carbohydrates and protein to stay energized, and the coaches cut out the morning skates. The older players encourage others to know what they do off the ice affects things on the ice.
“You’ve got to take care of your body,” Chaulk said. “You can’t go out and party and booze all the time, especially if it’s three in three. … Your body is a machine. Yeah, we’re not in the NHL, but what you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it.”
Take advantage of the 10th forward
While the 10th forward may sometimes struggle to find playing time, that’s not the case with three in three. Rookie Tom Mele gives breaks to teammates and has five goals, 15 points and a plus-13 rating in 40 games.
“He’s a great penalty killer, shot blocker and energy guy. He’s also highly skilled,” Sims said. “You’ve seen him walk around defensemen and take it right to the net.”
Be nice to the wife
Stress at home doesn’t help any player.
“Anybody who has kids knows it never stops,” Chaulk said. “My wife is unbelievable. When I’m (making) the 14-hour trek to Arizona or 17-hour trek to South Dakota, she’s flying solo. But having said that, when I get home, it’s time for me to pull my weight. But everybody’s busy in life.”