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Friday: at Bloomington
Saturday: vs. Muskegon
Radio: WOWO-AM – 1190

Rookie winger hustles to hold onto roster spot

Right wing Tomas Klempa gave a demonstration in the benefits of tenacity Friday.

He got the puck in the right corner of the offensive zone and fought off a defender. Then he skated to the left corner and fought off another.

Finally, he came out from behind the net and banked a shot off Bloomington’s goaltender, Paulo Colaiacovo, and into the net during the Komets’ 2-1 victory at Memorial Coliseum.

Klempa has only been with the Komets one week, but they’ve come to expect those types of plays from the 25-year-old rookie.

“He’s a real good offensive player and you can tell that by the way he holds the puck and makes plays,” said Komets coach Al Sims, whose team is 2-1-0 this season.

“You can see what he brings. He is small (5-foot-8, 170 pounds), but he’s got a low center of gravity and is tough to knock down. He does a lot of things behind the net, where he sneaks out with the puck from behind the net like when he scored. We brought him here for his offense.”

Klempa played 11 games last season with Wheeling of the ECHL, tallying two assists and six penalty minutes under former Fort Wayne coach Greg Puhalski. That came after a four year career with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, for which he had 42 goals and 108 points in 150 games.

“And he had that kind of production in the (United States Hockey League) before college. If you do that, you’ve got a good pedigree coming into this league,” Sims said.

The Komets, who play at Bloomington, Ill., on Friday, will have to make some tough decisions with their roster in the coming weeks. They recently re-signed forward Sean O’Connor, so someone will have to be cut to make room, and star players like playoff MVP David Hukalo and defenseman Kevin Bertram will be coming off injured reserve soon, too.

Klempa, who has a plus-1 rating in two games, is one of those who must show he deserves to keep his spot.

“I just want to work hard. That’s the only thing I can control,” said Klempa, who was born in Prestany, Slovakia. “When bounces are not going your way, you just have to keep working hard and plugging away. That’s what I want to bring, just hard work.”

It doesn’t hurt that Klempa has been playing on a line with former NHL player P.C. Drouin and the prolific-scoring Leo Thomas.

“There are guys here who have been playing for many years and have a lot of experience,” Klempa said. “If you’re one of the young guys, you have to come in and work hard and learn from them.”