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File / Rockford Register Star
Jesse Bennefield, playing for Rockford, tries to get a shot through Fort Wayne's A.J. Bozoian and goalie Kevin St. Pierre during a 2007 game.

Komets bring in Bennefield

But lose Cescon in trade, Mangos to retirement

The Komets added a lot of offense Wednesday – they acquired right wing Jesse Bennefield from Wichita – but their highly touted defensive corps took a hit.

To obtain Bennefield, who scored 35 goals and 75 points in 66 games last season with the Thunder, the Komets had to give up defenseman Craig Cescon.

"I was hesitant to give up Craig Cescon," general manager David Franke said. "But at the end of the day, we thought we needed a legitimate goal scorer, someone who can get 30 to 40 goals and 80 to 85 points. But I will miss Craig. He came to play every night. He played hard-nosed, played physical and he fought. He did everything we asked him to do."

Not only did the Komets lose Cescon, who had one goal and six points in 60 games last season, but free-agent acquisition Simon Mangos informed Fort Wayne he was retiring instead of joining them this season. In a season beset by the death of his mother, he helped Bossier-Shreveport to the CHL title with five goals and 32 points, and he had been slated as a top-three defenseman with Fort Wayne.

"I think it was really difficult for him to play last year. He called me up a couple days ago and said, 'I can't do it anymore,'" Franke said. "There was no reason to try and talk him into it or anything. This is a life-changing decision for him."

The Komets were able to sign defenseman Fredric Korduner, 23, who had nine goals and 36 points in 37 games last season with Gislaved of the Swedish Elite League, but the prize of the day was Bennefield, 30.

"For sure, it's exciting for me," said Bennefield, who played against the Komets in 2006-07, when he was with Rockford of the UHL. "I've had a lot of battles against Fort Wayne. It'll be exciting to be on the other end and not have the fans heckling you, to be on their side. I always thought Fort Wayne was a first-class organization with first-class fans."

The Komets, who made it to the Turner Conference semifinals in their first CHL season, had been trying to acquire Bennefield for months. When he went to play in Norway in August, though, the idea had been scuttled. But he came back, citing culture shock and the high cost of living there.

"I'm going to bring a lot of speed," Bennefield said. "I expect a lot of out myself and my teammates. I'm an intense player. I'm a run-and-gun type of (player), who will help the team win. I know Fort Wayne struggled last year. Hopefully I can be a part of putting them back in the win column. I think we'll have a decent team. The guys will come together."

Training camp for the Komets' 60th season opens Oct. 10.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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