By their own admission, the Komets played a little out of character for much of this season, and it showed as they floated in the middle of the IHL standings.
But if there’s one thing the Komets know how to do, it’s turn it on down the stretch.
In 2007-08, they finished the regular season on a 22-0-3 run to capture the regular-season championship, and then they won the Turner Cup.
Last year, they were 17-1-1 down the stretch and took both championships again.
So no one should be surprised with recent events: Fort Wayne has won 12 of 15 games to improve to 41-19-3 and pull to within six points of league-leading Muskegon, which has played two more games than the Komets.
Those teams meet tonight at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich.
It’s sense of urgency, Komets coach Al Sims said. Once spring starts coming for the Komets, we start thinking playoffs, home-ice (advantage) and how important it is since we’ve got the (second) best home record in the league. Our veterans start to play with a sense of urgency that they don’t play with all year. And the young guys have improved.
The Komets were in third place a month ago, 12 points back of the Lumberjacks. With 10 of their remaining 12 games against the worst three teams in the IHL – Dayton, Flint and Quad City – the Komets feel good about their chances of getting a fourth straight regular-season championship, if you include 2006-07’s United Hockey League season.
Everybody’s coming together and working hard, Komets center Leo Thomas said. We lost our swagger there for a little but, but over the last 10 or 15 games, we’ve gotten it back. We’ve climbed up the standings and improved things.
The veterans have led the way for the K’s – center Colin Chaulk has seven goals and 14 points in the last 10 games, and goalies Nick Boucher and Tim Haun have combined for a 2.00 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and two shutouts – but the youngsters have followed their lead.
I think a lot of it is our vets, said forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, the IHL’s reigning rookie of the week. They know what they did last year and know when to flip the switch on down the stretch. The team has really stepped up, and a lot of it’s the older guys, but the younger guys are buying in, too. It’s a good feeling. We feel confident.
The Komets’ scoring has become more balanced, with 14 players netting goals over the last 10 games, and the Fort Wayne offense now ranks third with 3.37 goals per game. The defense ranks first in the league, allowing 2.37 goals per game.
It’s a combination of the veterans’ will at this point in the season and the (youngsters’ play), Sims said. We’re not going to give up the championship easily.