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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Mason Baptista fights for control of the puck in a preseason game. The Komets must concentrate more on shooting and finishing.

Friday, October 13, 2017 1:00 am

10 keys to unlock ECHL title

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Komets are heading into their sixth ECHL season, looking for their first championship since 2012 in the now-defunct Central Hockey League. Coming off a season in which they had the fourth-best regular-season record in the league and lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Toledo Walleye, the team they will face in Saturday's season opener at Memorial Coliseum, here's a look at the 10 keys to success this season.

1. Greater consistency: The Komets were adept at making comebacks last season, winning nine times after trailing by two or more goals. But they can't sustain success like that and need to eliminate the poor starts. The onus falls on coach Gary Graham, assistant Ben Boudreau and the leaders to make sure the players don't let down.

2. Fewer penalties: With 17.94 penalty minutes per game last season, the Komets were the fourth-most penalized team in the ECHL. Worse, a lot of the penalties came while trying to protect leads or in the final few minutes of games. Increased smarts are essential for victories.

3. Shoot the puck: Sometimes the best play is the easiest play and the Komets need to concentrate more on shooting and finishing, instead of looking for the fancy, perfect, highlight-reel play. The addition of players such as Dennis Kravchenko, Marc-Olivier Roy and Ralph Cuddemi should rectify that.

4. Stop the puck: The Komets are almost always blessed with good goaltending and this season should be no exception with Michael Houser and Garrett Bartus between the pipes. The Komets gambled in letting Pat Nagle move on and they can't have a downgrade in the netminding department.

5. Figure out Toledo: The Komets lost 9 of 11 games to the Walleye in the regular season and playoffs combined. Until they can beat their division rival on a consistent basis, the Komets won't be able to capture a Kelly Cup.

6B. Improve in shootouts: The Komets went to overtime shootouts only four times, winning twice, but most teams were in more last season. The Komets scored on only 4 of 15 attempts in shootouts (ranking 12th at 26.7 percent) and stopped 12 of 16 (14th at 25 percent).

7. Continue Coliseum success: The Komets (45-19-8 overall) were the ECHL's best team on home ice last season, winning 28 of 36 games, and would do themselves a service by keeping that up.

8. Get help from the Coyotes: Whereas last season they were independent, the Komets are now affiliated with the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. Their last affiliation, with the Colorado Avalanche, saw them lose batches of players at a time so they could sit in the stands in the American Hockey League. They need a more mutually beneficial relationship with the Coyotes.

9. Improve on special teams: While the power-play unit was good last season, ranking sixth at 21.4 percent efficiency, the penalty kill was uncharacteristically mediocre at a 14th-ranked 82.3 percent. By adding more speed, this should improve.

10. Faceoffs: The Komets were spotty at winning faceoffs last season and need to improve, especially in the defensive zone in key situations.