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Komets

  • Komets bring back 2 more holdovers
    Komets general manager David Franke said Monday the offseason was just heating up after the team re-signed forwards Kaleigh Schrock and Mike Embach.Well … flame on, then.
  • Captain coming back for Komets
    It’s hard to argue with Komets general manager David Franke when he says team captain Kaleigh Schrock, at the hardly ripe age of 29, is still a good stretch of the legs away from his rocking chair days.
  • Ks part of shift by ECHL
    Komets fans enjoy going to road games and a good rivalry.
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IHL capsules

Bloomington PrairieThunder

Coach: Jarrod Skalde, 2nd season

Last season: 29-40-7, fifth place

5 key players: F Jon Booras, RW Jan Jas, RW Brett Holmberg, G Paulo Colaiacovo, D Brian Boulay

Arena: U.S. Cellular Coliseum

Web site: www.prairiethunderhockey.com

Outlook: Bloomington, beginning its fourth season, is still looking for its first playoff berth. Bloomington will again be led on offense by forwards Booras, Jas and newcomer Craig MacDonald. The PrairieThunder won’t score a ton but will be physical with the additions of forward Robin Gomez and defenseman Justin Sawyer. And the goaltending is improved with the addition of Colaiacovo, who has won championships in the Central League and in Europe.

Prediction: Seventh place

Dayton Gems

Coach: John Marks, 1st season

Last season: Expansion team

5 key players: D Greg Labenski, C Danny Lapointe, G Ryan Mior, D John Snowden, F Mark Versteeg-Lytwyn

Arena: Hara Arena

Web site: www.daytongems.com

Outlook: Marks has won two ECHL championships and one in the Southern League. Labenski, the captain imported from the now-defunct Dayton Bombers of the ECHL, is a terrific two-way defenseman who eclipsed 35 points in each of the last four seasons and has extensive experience at higher levels. Phil Youngclaus is a competent stay-at-home defenseman with potential. Lapointe and Snowden are potential 20-goal scorers. Versteeg-Lytwyn played last season for the Komets, tallying 32 points in 40 games, and he could be a top-line player with the Gems. Mior will be one of the league’s best goalies.

Prediction: Fourth place

Flint Generals

Coach: Jason Muzzatti, 1st season

Last season: 22-47-7, sixth place

5 key players: C Pascal Rheaume, C Greg Bullock, G Jean-Francois Labbe, D Jake Pence, C Tony Tuzzolino

Arena: Perani Arena

Web site: www.flintgenerals.com

Outlook: It was a tumultuous offseason for the Generals, who restructured their ownership group twice. Despite his late start, Muzzatti, a former NHL goaltender, used his connections to bring in a good core group. There isn’t much depth, though, especially at forward. Rheaume has played 318 NHL games and should tear it up at this level. Same goes for Tuzzolino, a veteran of nine NHL games. Bullock is one of the finer scorers in the IHL, with 85 points in 68 games last season. Former Komet Pence will help anchor the defense. But the goaltender could be the Generals’ true star – Labbe played in the NHL, too – if he’s still got legs at 37.

Prediction: Fifth place

Komets

Coach: Al Sims, seventh season (1989-93, 2007-present)

Last season: 46-18-12, first place

5 key players: C Colin Chaulk, D Guy Dupuis, LW P.C. Drouin, G Nick Boucher, F David Hukalo

Arena: Memorial Coliseum

Web site: www.komets.com

Outlook: The Komets have won back-to-back playoff titles since Sims returned to the team. The Komets are strong in every department, especially defensively, because forwards Chaulk, Hukalo and Leo Thomas know their assignments and stick to them. The Komets need to find replacements for departed forwards Mathieu Curadeau and Justin Hodgman, and they need to find more scoring at the blue line to assist Dupuis. There will be toughness with Brad MacMillan and Blair Stayzer, and the goaltending is solid, led by Boucher.

Prediction: Second place

Muskegon Lumberjacks

Coach: Rich Kromm, fourth season (1998-2001)

Last season: 43-26-7, third place

5 key players: C Todd Robinson, RW Robin Bouchard, LW John DiPace, G Sebastien Centomo, LW Robin Big Snake

Arena: L.C. Walker Arena.

Web site: www.muskegonlumberjacks.com

Outlook: The Lumberjacks, who were ousted by the Komets in the Turner Cup Finals last season, will score goals in bunches. That’s nothing new with Robinson, the reigning IHL MVP, Bouchard and Co. Newcomer Travis Banga will score a lot of goals, too. But Kromm, who returned to the team after an eight-year absence, has improved the defense. Centomo spent one game in the NHL with Toronto in 2001-02 and has had respectable numbers in the Central Hockey League the last three years. Defenseman Rumun Ndur is a former NHL player, too, and Jason Lawmaster will be a big help in his return to the lineup.

Prediction: Third place

Port Huron Icehawks

Coach: Stan Drulia, fourth season

Last season: 44-21-11, second place

5 key players: LW Tab Lardner, F Mike Kinnie, F Cory Stillman, G Larry Sterling, D Jamie Lovell

Arena: McMorran Arena

Web site: www.porthuronicehawks.com

Outlook: Despite being ousted in the first round of the playoffs, the Icehawks didn’t mess too much with the team dynamic. The Icehawks return a solid group of scorers, including Lardner, center Kris Vernarsky and center Nick Lindberg. But the Icehawks added Kinnie and Stillman, who should net 25 goals apiece. Defensively, the Icehawks were the best team in the IHL last season, and they should be solid again with Lovell and former Komet Kevin Hansen. Don’t be surprised if Adam Russo pushes Sterling for playing time in net.

Prediction: First place

Quad City Mallards

Coach: Frank Anzalone, first season

Last season: Expansion team

5 key players: C Jean Desrochers, RW Chris Lipsett, RW Juris Stals, C Mike Zbriger, G Sebastien Laplante

Arena: i wireless Center

Web site: www.myqcmallards.com

Outlook: The Mallards, in their first season after their American Hockey League franchise folded, should have plenty of scoring. Desrochers and Lipsett could be magnificent in this league, and the Mallards’ top two lines will be fun to watch. But defensively, they are a big question mark. They have some physical players, such as Jason Goulet, and some potential stars, such as former Komet Jay Holladay, but the defense has much to prove. Laplante, who played last season for the Komets, can be excellent if he stays healthy. Anzalone is known for being a good coach, at both the collegiate and pro levels, but he got a late start and it shows.

Prediction: Sixth place

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