The Komets lost some excellent scorers in the offseason – Mathieu Curadeau, Justin Hodgman and Sean O’Connor chief among them.
Matt Syroczynski, returning to the team with whom he started his professional career, must help fill the void if the Komets are to have a chance of winning a third straight IHL championship.
The Komets (1-1-0) play their home opener tonight against the Bloomington PrairieThunder (1-1-0).
Bloomington, which has yet to make the playoffs in its first four seasons, is hoping to echo the Komets’ success. Coach Jarrod Skalde fought to have this game on the schedule.
I wanted our guys to be in Fort Wayne for this game, with a huge crowd, he said. It will be good for them to experience the atmosphere and see the banners going up. They need to see what that’s like.
Syroczynski played for the Komets in 2006-07, as a rookie from the University of Vermont. In Pat Bingham’s lone season as Fort Wayne’s coach, he totaled 20 goals and 41 points in 73 games.
Syroczynski spent the last two seasons with Cincinnati of the ECHL, scoring 55 goals and 90 points in 102 games, while getting three games in the higher-level American Hockey League with Binghamton, Albany and Milwaukee.
I’ve proved the last two years, being away from here, that I can score goals, Syroczynski said. They haven’t put any pressure on me to do so. I put more pressure on myself than anyone else could. I know there are a few holes to fill, and I think I’m ready to step up.
The highlight, though, was winning a 2008 playoff championship with Cincinnati.
To win a championship is something every player dreams of. That’s the goal every offseason, when you’re training, Syroczynski said. The guys here have been joking around that I come back and I’ve missed two championships, but fortunately I got one of my own in Cincinnati. Now I just have to fit in here as we go for three in a row.
Syroczynski, who has two goals and four points this season, said fans will find him to be a much more seasoned player than his previous stint with the Komets. He prides himself on what he calls puck protection, getting in there and getting after the puck, finishing checks, getting the puck and then not giving it back, and he wants to crash the opposing net for scoring opportunities.
It’s a little strange being back here, said the 26-year-old native of Hamburg, N.Y. There are a lot of new faces, but it’s an exciting time, and I’m excited to be back. I’ve grown a lot.
When you’re a rookie, playing the pro game coming out of college, it’s different. I’ve learned to play it better. I’ve learned how to find the soft spots within the defense and about finding ways to get open.
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, he is the Komets’ tallest player. While he’ll never be mistaken as an enforcer – the Komets have plenty of those with Brad MacMillan, Blair Stayzer and Kevin Bertram – Syroczynski does aim to use his body to his advantage.
Scoring goals, people would say, is my first benefit, he said. But being physical comes with the territory. If there are times when teammates are getting abused or hit from behind, then you have to step up and that’s something I’m not afraid to do.
Note: The Komets have come to terms with forward Tomas Klempa and defenseman Frankie DeAngelis and hope to have them in the lineup tonight. Klempa had two assists in nine games last season with Wheeling of the ECHL. DeAngelis had three goals and 10 points in 35 games with American International College. The Komets might try to sign Sean O’Connor, who played for them last season and was released by Kalamazoo of the ECHL. The Komets released forward Vince Laise and placed defenseman Kevin Bertram (hamstring) on injured reserve. About 9,000 tickets have been sold for today’s game.