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Komets regain confidence

Ride 3-0-1 run into New Year’s

For the first time this season, the Komets are speaking with some confidence.

Even downright brashness.

“If we play like we have the last four games, we shouldn’t have any problem with Quad City,” center Leo Thomas said of tonight’s annual New Year’s Eve game at Memorial Coliseum.

The Komets are 8-15-2 and in last place in the Central Hockey League, seven points behind Evansville for the eighth and final playoff spot out of the Turner Conference, while Quad City is 14-14-0.

But on the heels of a seven-game losing streak, the Komets, winners of the last three championships in the International Hockey League, have gone on their best run of the season.

They are 3-0-1 in their last four games, outscoring the opposition 16-10.

With franchise great Colin Chaulk set to rejoin the team Monday after leaving HC Alleghe in Italy, the Komets feel the pieces are coming together in time for them a playoff push and take another run at a championship. Chaulk, a center, has helped the Komets to four titles since 2003 and been team MVP four times in his seven seasons with Fort Wayne.

He was supposed to be in the lineup tonight, after reaching terms on 1 1/2 -year contract last weekend, but Chaulk’s kids are ill and adjusting to the move back from Europe, and Chaulk hasn’t been on the ice for eight days.

All involved felt it would be best to delay his return.

“I think getting seven of the last eight points is pointing us in the right direction, and it’s great for this group to get themselves going before Chaulk gets here,” Komets coach Al Sims said. “It would have been horrible for him to come in with 11 or 12 losses in a row, and all of a sudden he’s got to change everything. It would have been a huge amount of pressure on Colin’s shoulders. I think these guys have taken it off his shoulders. He’s just going to make us better than we are now, and he’s not expected to flip-flop the team.”

Sims wouldn’t say whether the vacant captaincy, stripped from defenseman Guy Dupuis on Dec. 14, will be handed to Chaulk immediately or at all.

Against the Mallards, the Komets are 2-3-0 this season. At the Coliseum, Fort Wayne is 2-0-0 and has outscored the Mallards 10-6. At Moline, Ill., the Komets are 0-3-0 and have been outscored 15-6.

“It is a good thing we’re playing at home because we’re struggled out there (in Moline),” said Thomas, who scored twice in Wednesday’s 7-5 victory over Mississippi at the Coliseum.

This will be the 54th New Year’s Eve game in Komets history. They are 36-13-4 in those games and have won eight in a row.

Only about 2,000 tickets remained as of Thursday afternoon.