I don’t read too much into preseason hockey. My excitement level for it is somewhere just above that for all-star games. However, it certainly is much more reassuring for a coach when his team wins than when it loses. And there are certain things you want to see and I think the Komets did in their sweep of the Indy Fuel:
-- There was some grit in the form of three fights and some feistiness in front of the opposing net.
-- There was resiliency when the Komets gave up the first two goals Friday and when they let the Fuel back into the game in the second period tonight.
-- The rookies showed they wanted to make the team. Tonight, Brandon Morley, Chase Phelps and Kevin Miller all scored nice goals and Oskari Halme set up the first goal by Justin Hodgman.
-- Zach Fucale looked very good in net tonight. And, as we knew coming in, the battle for the backup goaltender position between Lukas Hafner and Kyle Hayton is tough. Still, I’ll be surprised if Hafner doesn’t get the job, even though I’ve long held the view they should try and find a way to carry three goalies. This might really be the year to do it because the depth chart really looks like Fucale could get called up sooner rather than later.
-- I keep hearing from people in the locker room that Ryan Lowney is going to have a big year. We saw it tonight with a goal and an assist. “Obviously I know how everything rolls here, what the situation is and how the coaches are and how the players are,” said Lowney, who is entering his third season with the Komets. “I’m just trying to play my game, help offensively when I can and keep the pucks out of the net, help the goalie out. I want to play an all-around, two-way game.”
OK, here’s what Komets coach Gary Graham said about the tough decisions ahead: “There were a lot of guys who all of a sudden are making things a lot more difficult around here. The coaching staff will meet with (general manager) David Franke and we’ll see where we’re all at. I thought the training camp week was a great success. We saw a lot of growth from guys in a short period of time. With so many new guys, and a group that wants to grow and learn a get better, I saw a lot of positives this week. Now we’ve got the tough task of shaving this roster.”
And another thing to track in the coming days is Phelix Martineau, who was a sparking rookie with the Komets last season. The Komets are smartly squatting on his ECHL rights. He’s currently with the roster of Laval of the higher-level American Hockey League. The Komets would love to get him, especially since Fucale is the only player they’ve gotten so far from the Vegas Golden Knights. This could get very interesting. Laval and it’s NHL partner, the Montreal Canadiens, no longer have an ECHL affiliate (Brampton is now with Ottawa), and so I’ve heard some talk that maybe Martineau could head to the Maine Mariners if he doesn’t stick in the AHL. But that would necessitate a trade of his rights from the Komets. So I have this weird feeling he ends up back in Fort Wayne. Really, Laval shouldn’t have a problem with that; he blossomed here.