When left wing Matt Syroczynski was re-signed by the Komets last summer, part of the reason the team coveted him was that he had morphed into a veteran leader in his two seasons away from Fort Wayne.
He even won a playoff championship in the ECHL during 2008.
En route to capturing the IHL's Turner Cup, a championship finalized with a 3-2 victory over the Flint Generals on Saturday night, Syroczynski often harkened back to the experiences he had in the ECHL.
"It's tough to win a championship at any level," he said. "I hope everyone — the fans, the organization and the media — really enjoy this, and appreciate this, because it's tough to do."
What the fans really enjoyed were Syroczynski's performances during the playoffs. He had 16 points and a team-leading 11 goals in 12 games, and he was selected as Playoff MVP by IHL commissioner Dennis Hextall, vice-president of hockey operations Brad Jones and director of media relations Amy Stump.
Though Syroczynski didn't net a game-winning goal, he keyed the Fort Wayne power play with six goals and nine points as the Komets went 15 for 53 with the man-advantage, including 9 of 21 in the five-game Finals series.
"I was feeling good coming down the stretch in the regular season," said Syroczynski, 26, who is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds. "I'm going to go to those hard areas where a lot of people don't want to go. That's where I score my goals. Sometimes it's tough. Sometimes the rebounds don't go on your stick. But my game is in front of the net, in the crease, and if you battle hard enough, my career has been right there, so that's where I go."
Syroczynski, who spent 30 games this season in the higher-level American Hockey League, was quick to credit his linemates, who in the postseason were always some combination of Colin Chaulk, Justin Hodgman and sometimes David Hukalo.
"It's great to win (Playoff MVP), but it's more about my linemates helping me out," said the native of Hamburg, N.Y. "Without them, I don't do this. They gave me pucks in the right areas and I was blessed enough to score."
His scoring helped the Komets to their third straight championship, an unprecedented feat in the 58 years of team history.
"Syro obviously matured a lot from leaving (Fort Wayne) and then coming back," Chaulk said. "I know (general manager) David Franke and the staff are notorious for bringing players back. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Obviously, this one was a big pickup. I loved playing with him since Day 1 in August, playing shinny hockey. He was overpassing me the puck and he's done everything to make me successful. I hope he's felt the same way about myself and Hodgy. It's been fun playing with him, that's for sure."
Left wing P.C. Drouin, who led the Komets with five goals and 18 points, including two Saturday, said Syroczynski's performance proved he is the IHL's elite power forward. Syroczynski had 30 goals and 53 points in 48 regular-season games with the Komets.
"He was just clutch," Drouin said. "He parked himself in front of that net and buried everything that came around him. He scored a lot of big goals for us and he's just that kind of player: really, really good around the net, big and strong, good skater, good hands and he just came through."