Even before Tuesday morning’s practice, when he slung his whistle around his neck and put on his baseball cap and strode onto the Memorial Coliseum ice, Komets coach Al Sims didn’t need some celebrated rodent from Pennsylvania to inform him that six more weeks of winter remained.
Take a look at the IHL schedule; that’s the only gauge that matters.
A lot of people call it the dog days of the season, Sims said of February. For us, it’s an important month. Our games start coming more often. We haven’t played a whole lot, but the games will start coming heavy in February and March. It’s a time for us to get in a groove.
The new month begins in earnest, with the Komets scheduled for three games over the next four nights. Fort Wayne (25-13-2) brings a six-game Coliseum winning streak into tonight’s 7:30 game against Dayton. The Komets are back home Friday for an 8 p.m. meeting with Port Huron, then close out the weekend Saturday at Quad City.
For Sims, the more games, the merrier.
We did play well in January, he said. We lost a couple big games against Muskegon and Port Huron, but when our team plays a lot, they seem to play their best; so we’re looking forward to more games.
February will bring a dozen games for the Komets, half of which are home.
For Sims, there’s more to it than crossing days off the calendar and keeping a distant eye on the playoffs that begin in April. He wants to get a head start on a playoff run that could lead to the team’s third successive Turner Cup championship.
Usually the last 20 games over the last two years, we’ve been one of the best teams or one of the hottest teams in the league, he said.
We want to finish that way again, because it has a tendency to carry into the playoffs on the right note, and you’re going in on a high. We’ve had good success in the playoffs, so we want to make sure that those last 25 games we are playing our best hockey.
For the Komets to play their best hockey in February, defenseman Guy Dupuis says the January defensive effort will have to carry over.
We know that when we play good defensively, good things happen, Dupuis said. It seemed like in January we played really good defensively, and that from the goalie on out we’re so conscientious defensively.
The games that we played really well defensively, we won those games, plus many of those games, the offense took care of itself. And the games we lost, it seems like we weren’t as conscientious and aware of our defensive jobs, or made more mistakes than we wanted to.
Although one of the team’s elder statesmen at 39, Dupuis says the grind of the season hasn’t hit yet. That will come in three or four weeks.
At the end of February, start of March, it gets a little tougher and you get tired, Dupuis said. Road trips are a little longer, even if it’s the same mileage, and it’s a little colder when you come back to your car at 3 in the morning.
Note: Komets goaltender Nick Boucher was named the IHL Goaltender of the Month for January. Boucher appeared in six games and had a 3-1-0 record with a 1.7 goals-against average. It is the first goaltender-of-the-month award for Boucher, who last season was the IHL Goaltender of the Year.