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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Dayton’s John Kennedy pins the Komets’ Colin Chaulk against the boards in a battle for the puck Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.

Veterans lead K’s past Gems

The Komets played mostly their older players in their final exhibition game.

And they came through Sunday night.

Fort Wayne defeated the Dayton Gems 3-1 thanks to goals from 27-year-old defenseman Jamie Milam, 26-year-old right wing Bobby Chaumont and 37-year-old left wing P.C. Drouin, who scored on a power play.

The Komets’ next game will count; the regular-season opener for their 60th anniversary season is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum against the Evansville IceMen.

“A couple of guys were snakebit around the net a little bit tonight,” said coach Al Sims, after his Komets outshot the Gems 37-22. “Jesse Bennefield for one, but once he starts putting the puck in the net, look out. If we can get three without him scoring, that’s pretty good. We should get to four or five every night with him and Bobby Chaumont.

“And Brett Smith made some pretty deft passes. You can see why he was the captain in Bossier-Shreveport and won a Cup there last season. … He seems to come through when it counts.”

Sunday’s performance, in front of a crowd of 4,411 at the Coliseum, was vastly different from the exhibition opener. The Komets used a younger lineup and lost lost 6-1 Friday in Dayton.

The Komets released forwards Jordy Trottier, Eric Yngwe, Todd McIlrath, Adam Krug, Shane Heffernan and Frederic Korduner, plus defenseman Olivier Hotte after Sunday’s game. The team had 29 players in training camp, vying for about 20 roster spots.

“I think our top six forwards were pretty much set in stone, and there were about eight to 10 guys battling for four or five jobs on the third line and (as) the extra forward,” Sims said. “It’s been very competitive. In camp, everybody was really close and there wasn’t much separation. ... For the most part, we’re happy with what we’ve got.”

The Komets need to cut two more players by Thursday – both will likely be forwards – and they are evaluating players who have come available through cuts in the CHL and other leagues.

After being in last place in the CHL until February last season, the Komets are focused on getting off to a better start this season. The Komets reached the playoffs, losing to Rapid City in the Turner Conference semifinals.

Only eight of 14 teams make the playoffs this season.

“Everyone has a little more sense of urgency,” center Colin Chaulk said, “and a little more professionalism. We’re just going to put the work boots on and see what happens.”

Goaltender Nick Boucher stopped 21 of 22 shots for the Komets. Dayton’s Kristofer Westblom stopped 20 of 21 before leaving with the game tied at 1 14:19 into the second period. His replacement, Jon Olthuis, stopped 14 of 16.

Smith had two assists, setting up Milam’s and Chaumont’s goals. Drouin’s goal, at 19:13 of the second period, finished the scoring.

jcohn@jg.net

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