If you are in some of the farthest reaches of the CHL, like Prescott Valley, Ariz., or Hidalgo, Texas, you might not have noticed that the Komets are no longer doormats.
They’re the second hottest team in the league – they’ve won 10 of 12 slightly less impressive than Rapid City’s 13 in a row – and the Komets might end up being a legitimate threat in the playoffs.
The latest proof came this weekend, when Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the Dayton Gems at Memorial Coliseum capped a sweep of three games in less than 72 hours.
And it was a schedule stacked against Fort Wayne (24-20-5), now three points behind Wichita for sixth place in the Turner Conference. The Komets defeated the visiting Gems 6-3 Friday night, then had to travel 306 miles – each way – to defeat the Quad City Mallards 3-2 Saturday, while the Gems (23-21-4) had an evening off.
On Sunday, the Komets looked anything but beleaguered. Forwards Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Jon Mirasty fought Damien Surma and Matt McCue in the first three minutes in front of 8,011 fans.
Fort Wayne then tallied 18 of the first 24 shots with goals from defenseman Craig Cescon and Schrock.
“Tonight was the best game we played all weekend, really,” said goaltender Nick Boucher, who stopped 33 shots for the Komets’ third shutout in six games. “Surely, we didn’t play the full 60 minutes the first two nights. Tonight was a 60-minute effort. Admittedly, you haven’t seen too much of that (from us) this year. It was a good, solid 60-minute effort, and that’s a good sign, for sure.”
Cescon’s goal, his first of the season, came after center Colin Chaulk sent a pass from behind the Dayton net to the blue line, setting up Cescon’s long-range slapshot at 7:37 of the first period. Schrock put in the rebound of a Mathieu Curadeau shot during a power play at 18:46.
Left wing P.C. Drouin made it 3-0 with a shot from 55 feet out at 13:01 of the second period. And right wing Sean O’Connor scored at 15:35, after he tried unsuccessfully to pass the puck away in the slot, and that spelled the end of the night for Dayton goaltender Jon Olthuis, who had stopped 21 of 25 shots.
The Komets improved to 7-4-1 against Dayton, which is coached by Fort Wayne native Brian Gratz and had won the first four games of the season series.
Fort Wayne, which began the weekend in eighth place, now has three-point lead on Dayton.
“Our team was out to prove a point,” Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. “It took us four months to catch Dayton and we finally passed them (Saturday), and our team wasn’t going to relinquish seventh place without a battle. It was just a great effort by Boucher, all the way out. Every player on the team, to do this after eight games in 12 nights, to play the way they did is incredible.”