Jeremy Gates isn’t putting his focus on making the Komets’ roster – at least not that he’s saying.
He’s looking further ahead – to a time when he can bring Fort Wayne a championship.
Every year, it’s a battle to try to win a championship, said Gates, a 26-year-old defenseman. That’s always my goal, when I play, is to win – no matter where I am or what team I’m on. For me, I want to work hard. And as a team, we want to work hard and work fast, play in-your-face hockey; that’s what our mentality has to be.
Gates, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, split time last season between the Double-A and Single-A levels, ultimately winning a championship with Pensacola of the lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League.
With the Komets, who missed the postseason for the first time since 2002, he had one goal, four points and eight penalty minutes in 17 games.
With Bloomington of the Double-A CHL, he had six assists and six penalty minutes in 15 games.
And with Pensacola, where he played for new Komets coach Gary Graham, he totaled three goals, 11 points and 28 penalty minutes in 28 games.
Toward the end of the Komets’ dismal season, he was one of a group of Komets, including current forward John Dunbar, who asked to be returned to Pensacola so they could continue to work on their games and try to win a championship.
He was my Most Improved Player last year, Graham said. I thought he used his time with the Komets in the (ECHL) to develop and that’s what we’re looking for. You could see it when he came back.
Though it was at a lower level, the Pensacola style of play was similar to what Graham is trying to instill with the Komets, who had their second day of training camp Monday. Graham wants a fast, puck-possession game with a lot of hitting, a divergence from the chip-and-chase game under former coach Al Sims.
The way our team was built in Pensacola – we were a very good team – and we loaded up at the end. A lot of guys came back to Pensacola, said Gates, who hails from Jackson, Mich.
Not just John Dunbar and I, but also (former Komet) Patrick Knowlton and some other guys came back. It made our team good. We were a close-knit group.
Gates was the first player to score in the first scrimmage Sunday.
It was a good feeling, he said. (Matthew) Larke did all the work. He went to the net and I just followed the play, called for it. He made a smart pass and I put it home.
There are only nine defensemen in camp – the Komets will probably keep seven – so Gates’ chances of making the team are strong. The Komets added Derek Foam to the blue-line corps Monday.
A familiarity with Graham, and vice versa, certainly helps Gates’ cause.
I think (it helps), he said. As far as practices go, I’m familiar with his drills and how he talks and draws up the plays. And it enables me to help the other guys and make sure the drills run smoothly and everything goes well.
Note: Bob Chase, who is entering his 61st season as the Komets’ radio broadcaster, will not do at least two road trips this season to stay fresh, team president Michael Franke confirmed. Shane Albrahani will call those games.