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Laura Gardner/The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne's Brad MacMillan squares off to fight Mike Liambas during the Komets' 5-1 victory Thursday night.

2009 ends with big Komets victory

They defeat Bloomington 5-1 at Memorial Coliseum

During the second intermission of a game tied at 1, Komets coach Al Sims was asked what his New Year's resolution would be, and he said: "I resolve to get this team scoring more."

Fifty-seven seconds later, right wing David Hukalo blasted a shot from 45 feet out, which caromed off the glove of Bloomington goaltender Andrew Martin and slid into the net. Less than four minutes after that, a scrum in front of the net saw right wing Sean O'Connor sweep the puck underneath Martin.

O'Connor would score again, and left wing P.C. Drouin did, too, and the Komets defeated the PrairieThunder 5-1 on Thursday night.

Sims' resolution paid off a few hours early, it seems.

"We've just been getting some fortunate bounces that we hadn't been getting in a while," O'Connor said. "We've been out-chancing teams and it's good to be finally on the other side of things.

"It's kind of like that 'Major League' joke. Two wins is 'back-to-back' and if we get three in a row, we've started 'a winning streak.' We're just going to take it game by game. We've just got to play each period at a time, each shift at a time, and hopefully things will continue to bounce our way."

A lopsided victory that included four fights and was watched by a raucous sellout crowd of 10,454 at Memorial Coliseum seemed an appropriate end to a terrific decade for the Komets. They captured three playoff championships, including the last two, and they snagged five regular-season championships.

Only once did they miss the playoffs.

Even though this season's third-place team (17-11-1) is on a pace comparable to that of the 2001-02 squad that didn't skate in the postseason, the Komets have shown signs of improvement lately, winning their last two games.

Thursday marked the return of goaltender Tim Haun, after he served his seven-game suspension for swinging his stick baseball-style at Port Huron's Derek Patrosso. Also back in the lineup was center Rick Varone, who hadn't played since Nov. 26 because of a knee injury.

The Komets were without their star center, Colin Chaulk, for a third straight game because of the death of a family member. He should be back for Saturday's game at Flint, Mich.

To make room for Varone, the Komets cut forward Tomas Klempa, who had played on the top line for a spell but totaled only three goals, five points and a minus-6 rating in 24 games.

The Komets' first goal Thursday was scored at 6:38 of the first period by Hukalo, who redirected a Brandon Warner shot from the blue line, after Warner had intercepted a clearing attempt by the short-handed PrairieThunder (14-10-4).

"Hukalo is getting back to (Playoff) MVP form," Sims said. "Him and Konstantin Shafranov have always had good connection, good chemistry, even with Mathieu Curadeau last year. Whoever plays with those two now is going to benefit from the way they play because they find each other all over the ice, and both are very patient with the puck."

Fourth-place Bloomington got a power-play goal of its own at Craig MacDonald, who fired the puck past Haun from the right circle.

The Komets outshot Bloomington 41-25.

For photos from Thursday's game, click here.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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