Early in the week, the Komets players discussed how they wanted to finish the regular season.
We had a meeting and we said, Weve only got 10 games left and nothing to save it for, defenseman Brandon Warner said.
It being the type of urgency that championship teams can turn on and use to their advantage. The Komets had that it Thursday night, defeating the Dayton Gems 6-2 at Memorial Coliseum.
If we want to have first place, we knew we had to get all 10 of these remaining games, or at least nine of them, Warner said. It was a little bit of a sloppy start for a while – we had a few turnovers – but overall, yeah, we played with quite a bit of urgency.
After a scoreless first period that saw dazzling goaltending at both ends, the Komets netted two goals in the span of 14 seconds. Center Leo Thomas got to the rebound of a David Hukalo shot and scored at 2:29, and Frankie DeAngelis pass from behind the net set up Justin Chwedoruk for a 2-0 lead at 2:43.
After Daytons Greg McCauley took advantage of the Komets inability to clear the puck from their zone, scoring at 11:18, Hukalo netted a rebound at 14:10 and the outcome was never again in doubt.
The Komets got third-period goals from Warner, P.C. Drouin and Matt Syroczynski, and Fort Wayne pulled to within six points of first-place Muskegon. The Komets (43-20-4), who have won three straight regular-season championships and two consecutive playoff titles, have nine games remaining in the regular season. Muskegon has eight, after losing 4-3 to last-place Dayton (25-42-4) on Wednesday night.
We see the end of the tunnel and weve been scoreboard watching, and we saw Muskegon lost to Dayton in overtime. We believe we can go for first and will continue to, Syroczynski said.
The Komets made sure not to take the Gems lightly, even though Fort Wayne led the season series 9-3-0 coming into Thursday.
The thing about Dayton is they come to play every night, Syroczynski said. They work really hard. Theyre a little short-handed in the skill, but if you dont match their work ethic, youre going to lose. We knew they were coming off that good overtime win and that theyd be pumped.
With goaltender Tim Haun out at least until April 7 with a concussion, Nick Boucher is expected to start all three games in three nights for the Komets. He didnt disappoint in the first of those, stopping 29 of 31 shots. Daytons Derek MacIntyre turned away 28 of 34 shots.
Notes: Komets center Colin Chaulk was selected as IHL Player of the Month, after he tallied seven goals and 17 points in 14 games. The Komets played without forwards Mitch Woods (leg) and Brad MacMillan (shoulder). Former NHLer Parris Duffus, a member of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, was signed as an emergency goalie to backup Boucher. Rookie Matt Koenig should be the backup tonight at Flint, Mich.