The Komets dont have Brad MacMillan, Jon Mirasty, Jeff Worlton or anyone like those enforcers.
Nonetheless, this might be the toughest Fort Wayne team since the 1990s. Its taken only six ECHL games, of which the Komets have won three, for the fans to see that.
Saturday nights 1-0 victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators is the latest example. Ryan Donald cross-checked Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who is certainly not a player to back down from a fight. But before Schrock could retaliate, Tyler Butler had sped in, dropped his gloves and begun brawling with Donald.
You cant say enough about Butler at the end of the game, Komets coach Al Sims said. One of the oldest guys on our defensive corps and he was stepping up and protecting his teammate.
It came less than 24 hours after a 10-player brawl at Memorial Coliseum, set off by the Gladiators crashing the Fort Wayne net in the waning seconds of a 4-2 Gwinnett victory.
Weve got a team that sticks up for each other and doesnt let anyone take liberties, Sims said. They had three guys in there trying to push and shove at (goalie) Marco Cousineau and were not going to allow that.
Fort Wayne is third in the ECHL with an average of 28.33 penalty minutes per game. That includes 12 fights.
While fans had complained in recent years that the Komets didnt do enough to retaliate if a player is victimized by a cheap shot, that hasnt been the case this season.
For instance, when Chris Augers knee was blown out on a hit from Evansvilles Aaron Gens on Oct. 20, Colten Hayes immediately came in to punish Gens.
Youve got to be there for one of your teammates, said forward Brandon Marino, who was third in the ECHL in goals (five) and second in points (11) heading into Sundays games.
If someone takes advantage of one of your guys, youve got to be there for him, Marino said. Thats the sign of a good team all around. We cant back down from anyone, but that cant be our main goal either. Weve got to come out and win a hockey game.
Fortunately for the Komets, when their toughness has resulted in short-handed situations, theyve been adept a killing penalties. They ranked third with a penalty-kill efficiency of 94.1 percent.
And, as goalie Charlie Effinger pointed out, the toughness has been shown not just in fisticuffs, but also in hard checks, blocked shots and battling through injuries.
Theres honestly a lot of character in this room. These are character guys, Effinger said.
Its so easy to see on the ice, when you see the same old guys blocking big shots or clearing out rebounds on the penalty kill. You guys in Fort Wayne are well aware of having character guys; this team has won a lot of championships and you dont do that by mistake. The organization looks for that and its fun to be part of that type of culture.
Notes: Several Komets players are taking part in Movember, growing mustaches next month to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer awareness. Check the Ice Chips blog at www.journalgazette.net to keep up with their efforts.