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vs. Mississippi
When: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: 1190 AM
Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Sean O’Conner had three goals and 11 points over the last 14 games including a game-winning goal over Dayton on Monday.

O’Connor comes around

Young Komets forward shakes off ragged start

Not unlike any other players with the Komets, forward Sean O’Connor was underperforming much of this season.

O’Connor, who is in his third season with the team, was expected to use his speed and offensive skills to help the Komets in their first year in the Central Hockey League.

But he started slow, scoring one goal and four points in the first 10 games.

“I expect so much of myself. I’m sure I know what the coaches think and what the fans think, and sometimes you get down on yourself,” said O’Connor, who had 46 goals and 98 points in 131 games over the past two seasons.

“When you do struggle to score or to play well, you press harder, harder and harder, talk to your parents, your dad, your brother, the coaches, anybody you can to get some therapy.

“You just need to get your bearings, and it’s really stressful and disappointing because you feel like you’re letting your teammates down, especially when our goalies have been playing so well all year. I was definitely hard on myself.”

Hockey was joyless for O’Connor, 23, who made the IHL’s All-Rookie Team last season, because he was underperforming and the Komets unexpectedly sank to the bottom of the CHL’s standings.

“You’ve got to realize you love this game and you’re a good player and that’s how you got here,” O’Connor said. “You have to realize that. Go out, play your game, try hard and have some fun. That’s all I’ve been trying to do, and not rely so much on trying to get points.”

He has been getting his statistics lately with three goals and 11 points over the last 14 games. He netted the game-winning goal in Monday’s 4-2 victory over Dayton at Memorial Coliseum.

Fort Wayne, which is still in last place at 7-15-2, is on a 2-0-1 surge heading into tonight’s game against visiting Mississippi (13-14-1).

“I think he’s been playing great for us lately,” Komets coach Al Sims said. “OC has the ability to snap the puck up top (in the net) and has scored a couple of goals like that already this year. He’s a bit of a catalyst for us. He’s an energy guy, and when he gets the puck, good things usually happen. He’s tough to handle in the offensive zone, down low.”

The key for O’Connor, aside from having more fun at the rink, has been working hard in the corners and making simple plays to get the puck toward the net. He was minus-4 through the first 12 games, plus-4 over the last 12.

“I feel like I’ve been playing a lot better. I’ve been getting a lot of chances,” O’Connor said.

With the Komets still struggling to score – they have 22 goals over the last 10 games – they hope O’Connor can continue to spark the offense in the right direction.

Note: The Komets have added rookie forward Artem Podshendyalov to the roster, and he will make his debut today against Mississippi. He fills the void left by Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who was placed on 10-day injured reserve with leg injury.