FORT WAYNE – There are still some stains.
The Komets remain in last place in the 18-team Central Hockey League, with a 7-15-2 record, eight points back of Evansville for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Turner Conference.
And forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, arguably the Komets’ best player, suffered a leg injury Monday night and will probably be out at least one game.
But there is, finally, reason for some optimism.
The Komets defeated the Dayton Gems 4-2 Monday at the Coliseum, putting them on a 2-0-1 streak heading into Wednesday’s game against the visiting Mississippi RiverKings.
We came out and wanted to prove something to Dayton and to our fans, Komets coach Al Sims said. We challenged them in the (locker) room between the second and third periods, and the guys came out and answered the challenge. It was a big come-from-behind win for us. We’re moving in the right direction.
The Komets scored three unanswered goals in the third period in front of 6,243 fans. Forward Tab Lardner tied it at 2 with a wrist shot into the top of the net from the left circle at 11:14. Forward Sean O’Connor netted the game-winner seven seconds later, beating goaltender Jeff Jakaitis with a high, 35-foot shot.
I was just there to pick up the puck and the defenseman was so far back in the zone that I was able to walk right into the middle of the ice, and the goalie didn’t get out in time, O’Connor said. I think he hesitated thinking I was going to pass. I had come down on two other 2-on-1s and passed on both of them.
Left wing P.C. Drouin added an empty-net goal.
Help is on the way for the Komets as center Colin Chaulk, who led the Komets to four championships in seven seasons between 2002 and 2010, will be in the lineup Friday against the visiting Quad City Mallards.
Also expected to make his debut that night is rookie forward Artem Podshendyalov, 21, who had 62 goals and 124 points in 42 games last season with the Bradford Rattlers of the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League.
For now, though, the Komets are relishing a rare victory over Dayton (14-11-1), which has won 5 of 7 games between the teams. One of the Gems’ goals came from forward Brandon Naurato, who has four goals and five points in four games, all against the Komets, who waived him Dec. 16. With Fort Wayne, Naurato had two goals and six points in 19 games.
The four-goal explosion was rare for the Komets, who don’t have a single player on pace for a 30-goal season. Their leading goal scorer is Leo Thomas with nine. Through the Komets’ eight games previous to Monday, of which they’d won only one, they scored 18 goals.
We’re still not scoring a lot of goals, Sims said, but we’re scoring some timely goals it seems now. And (goaltender Nick) Boucher seems to be in a zone. He was tremendous (with 33 saves).