The Komets are only three games into the playoffs, yet they have the look of a grizzled group of brawlers.
Nary a player in the locker room is without his share of bumps, bruises, cuts and scars.
And they’re wearing them with pride.
Even though the Komets trail the best-of-seven Turner Cup Semifinals 2-1, and even though they have taken too many penalties, the Komets have played the tough brand of hockey they hoped to against the rival Port Huron Icehawks.
That’s just part of playoff hockey, Komets defenseman Brandon Warner said. If you watch any of the playoffs, it’s a totally different game from the regular season. Everybody is giving up the body, blocking shots. The physical play is huge in the playoffs and that’s the biggest thing you notice.
I’m pretty happy with the way we’ve played physically so far, apart from the penalties.
Can the Komets play physically without taking penalties? Absolutely, they said, since most of the penalties have been for stick infractions such as slashing or hooking. Plus, there have been several tripping calls, and most have taken place in the offensive or neutral zones.
The Komets want to be doling out checks and sending a message to the Icehawks, but they don’t want to be hauling them down and winding up short-handed too often, unless it’s by necessity in the defensive zone.
In the series, Port Huron has scored on 4 of 15 power plays and Fort Wayne is 2 for 16.
We’ve just got to learn from it and be better next time, said Warner, whose Komets lost 4-3 at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, and play at McMorran Arena in Michigan on Wednesday.
The Komets have trailed only 5 minutes, 23 seconds in the series, so it defies some reason that they are down in the series.
By buckling down on defense, getting scoring from their second and third lines, which have tallied only two goals in the series, and playing physically, the two-time defending champions believe they can overpower the Icehawks.
I definitely think we’re playing physical and playing hard, Komets forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock said. But with that comes playing smart, as well. It’s an adjustment for (young) players like myself. It’s a whole new level. Everyone’s working hard, but guys who work hard have to (make sure) to be smart and make plays.
The Komets are 2-4 at McMorran this season, including the 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2, which came thanks to a Mickael Bedard goal. However, it’s likely the Komets will start goaltender Nick Boucher, who has won 14 of 17 game there over the past three seasons.