The Komets and Evansville are tied atop the Turner Conference with 36-18-4 records and only eight games remaining. What happens when the teams meet tonight and Saturday at Memorial Coliseum could determine who wins the conference and gets home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the CHL playoffs.
They’re good games to play, easy to get up for, Komets forward Jean-Michel Rizk said. But you’ve got to play 60 minutes against them. They’re a dangerous type of team, and if you let up for five or 10 minutes, that’s when they hurt you. We’ve got to make sure we come out and play hard.
Here are 10 reasons you should pay attention to these games:
No one expected this: The IceMen had a seemingly insurmountable seven-point lead less than two weeks ago, but they’ve lost five in a row since then. Despite their 4-3 loss to Dayton on Tuesday, the Komets have been performing well, going 6-2-2 in their last 10.
It’s been wacky: From Jesse Bennefield slapping Evansville’s Nick Schneider on the ice, to Matt Gens singing his Komets Suck tune in an Evansville bar, there have been some strange occurrences this season.
If you like fighting There has been at least one fight in 10 of the 11 meetings. In all, the Komets and IceMen have 25 fights. The most hatred seems to be between Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Evansville’s Steve Makway, who have fought three times.
It’s evenly matched: Fort Wayne has gone 7-4-0 in the season series, Evansville 4-6-1. Six of the games have been decided by one or two goals.
The rivalry goes way back: Even though Fort Wayne and Evansville have been playing for only two seasons, several of the IceMen were part of the Muskegon team the Komets hated in the IHL.
Fort Wayne’s Colin Chaulk and Evansville’s Todd Robinson have been battling at the Coliseum since 2002.
Sean O’Connor is an IceMan: He was beloved as a Komets player, helping them to championships in 2009 and 2010, and it wasn’t an easy decision to let him go last summer. With Evansville, he has 12 goals and 28 points in 52 games.
They’re nearly identical, statistically: Fort Wayne ranks fourth in scoring (3.4 goals per game) and Evansville is fifth (3.29).
Fort Wayne is fifth in defense (2.78 goals against per game) and Evansville is sixth (2.84).
It’s in-state hatred: The downside of being in the CHL, not the ECHL, is there aren’t many geographic rivals for Fort Wayne.
The IceMen have helped alleviate that. Both teams’ fans want bragging rights.
There are two great goalies: Nick Boucher leads the CHL in games played (44), victories (29) and shutouts (3), and he’s third in goals-against average (2.35) and sixth in save percentage (.922).
Evansville’s Brian Gillis has played 33 games, winning 23 with a 2.40 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
Last chance for a great regular-season game: After this weekend, the Komets’ remaining six games are against Laredo (2), Quad City and Dayton (3), who are a combined 75-79-16.