FORT WAYNE – By adding youth, the Komets were supposed to be faster and a more prolific scoring team this season. But it wasn’t evident in the opening game of their 60th season in professional hockey.
With a revamped roster – only 10 players remain from last season’s squad – the Komets looked much like last season, losing 5-0 to the Evansville IceMen.
It soured Saturday night for a near-sellout crowd of 10,071, which was treated to a flurry of pregame festivities to mark the occasion, but not much afterward.
It’s one game, and we’ve got to bounce back next week and get a win. Then, all is forgotten, said coach Al Sims, whose Komets play host to the IceMen again Saturday. We’ve got enough veterans in there, enough people, to make sure we’ll be ready. We’ll have film for them to watch, and we’ll devise a plan to beat this team.
The goals were scored by John Ronan, Brian Bicek (short-handed), Matt Gens, Steve Makway (power play) and Sean O’Connor, who wasn’t re-signed by the Komets after last season.
This game was eerily similar to last year’s season opener, a 4-0 loss to Rapid City, the Komets’ rude awakening to the CHL after winning three straight IHL titles.
Things weren’t working for us, and I think we were trying to do too much at the start, center Brett Smith said. They were blocking a lot of our passes through the neutral zone and going back the other way. It was just the simple stuff, and when you get behind the eight-ball like that, it’s tough.
About the only times the Komets’ fans got to cheer were during four third-period fights.
That wasn’t a complete effort. That’s not what we expected of each other, Smith said. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and work harder.
Komets captain Colin Chaulk agreed.
I’m sure the guys were nervous. I was nervous, Chaulk said. If you’re not nervous, you picked the wrong job. But the good players can take that nervous energy and channel it into a good positive outcome. The guys who can’t handle it, they fold under pressure and make bad decisions.
K’s goaltender Nick Boucher stopped 33 of 38 shots.
Evansville’s Pier-Olivier Pelletier stopped 29. The IceMen didn’t allow a goal in two preseason games against the Komets, either.
Preceding the game was a 20-minute celebration of 60 years of Komets hockey, including the introduction of almost 40 retired players.
Some of them were on skates, wearing their old Komets jerseys. Robbie Irons even had his old-school orange-and-black facemask.
Among the legends in attendance was Guy Dupuis, who retired this summer after 21 seasons in professional hockey, during which he played a franchise-record 945 games as a Komets defenseman.
It kind of felt the same. I skated out there. There was the national anthem and everything. I almost felt like I was part of it," said Dupuis, who captained the Komets at this time last year.
(Former teammate and captain) Colin Chin said to me, You know, national anthem, I feel like I’ve got to go to my seat and grab a beer.’ For myself, I feel like I want to play a shift here. But it would only be a shift, I’m sure.