FORT WAYNE – After getting embarrassed in a 5-1 loss to the visiting Kalamazoo Wings on Friday, the Komets’ players held a closed-door meeting to address their struggles at Memorial Coliseum, and it worked. On Saturday, the Komets dominated the North Division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones 7-2.
If there’s a playbook the Komets use to fix things, a tongue-lashing from the leaders is on Page 1.
Heading into tonight’s game at Loveland, Colo., the Komets (25-20-2) are only in third place in the division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.
So what else is in the Komets’ playbook? By looking at the team’s past five championships, maybe we can find out.
Believe in yourselves
Hokey as it sounds, the Komets have to believe they can accomplish anything.
In 2002-03, when they won the UHL championship, it took a wild set of circumstances for that to happen. Goaltender Tom Lawson had been called up, Pokey Reddick was injured in the middle of a game against Elmira, leaving the Komets with their 42-year-old equipment manager, Joe Franke, in net. He stopped 4 of 6 shots in regulation, assisted on a goal and stopped 3 of 4 shootout attempts in a 4-3 victory.
It made international news, but for the players, it made them trust that no obstacle was too big. They were 13-9-3 before 1-0 Joe, 42-13-8 after him.
Drop a star
Nothing sends a message quite like cutting a top-tier player.
The Komets did it in 2009-10, when they let go of Rick Varone and went on to an IHL championship. Last year, they waived Jesse Bennefield before winning the CHL title.
This season, they ousted forward Stephon Thorne on Jan. 1 and have gone 9-6-0 since. They were 16-14-2 with him.
Sometimes the best pickups are players who have something to prove. In 2008-09, that was Mark Versteeg-Lytwyn, who had already been let go by three teams that season but went on to score 16 goals and 37 points in 51 games. Last year, they picked up Mike Vaskivuo, who had been released by Rapid City. He became MVP of the playoffs, which included a victory over Rapid City.
Trade for a key cog
The Komets’ best trades haven’t been blockbusters.
In 2008-09, they dealt sniper Dominic Osman for Rod Aldoff, who solidified the defense. Last season, the Komets gave up a promising blue-liner, Tristin Llewellyn, but they got the security of backup goaltender Gerry Festa.
Despite re-signing Jamie Milam on Monday, the Komets still crave another defenseman.
Notes : Goalie Nick Boucher, who had already had two hip surgeries since last season, had wrist surgery. It won’t affect his timetable to return, which is at least a month from now, though he’s not been signed by any team. He was the Komets’ MVP last season.