Forget the first two games: This was what the Komets expected when they parted with the bulk of last seasons team and infused youth, speed plus a smidge of experienced veterans.
It doesnt hurt that the Komets 3-2 victory over the Rapid City Rush, in front of 7,514 fans Friday night at Memorial Coliseum, exacted a measure of revenge for Fort Waynes loss in a contentious five-game playoff series last spring.
Its a new season, I know, Komets defenseman Frankie DeAngelis said. There are only eight of us that were here last (season). But we still know how it was against them then. And, also, they were a (3-0-1) team coming in and we knew we had to play strong in our building and we came out and were ready for the game.
It was losing to the Rush in the Turner Conference semifinals, on the heels of three straight IHL championships, which convinced the Komets they needed to reshape their roster to be as successful in the CHL.
The summers biggest import, forward Jesse Bennefield, got things going for Fort Wayne by sending a 48-foot wrist shot underneath Rush goaltender Danny Battochio during a power play 6:21 into the game.
The Rush didnt get its first shot on goal until the 9:30 mark.
A pass half the length of the ice, and off the dasher boards, from defenseman Tristin Llewellyn set up center Leo Thomas for a breakaway goal – also scored low – 2:50 into the second period.
At that point, the shots were 19-4, in favor of Fort Wayne. They finished 37-26.
Captain Colin Chaulks blistering shot from the top of the left circle, during a power play at 16:48 of the second period, wound up the game-winner.
After losing 5-0 to Evansville on Oct. 22, then gritting out a 4-3 shootout victory over the IceMen on Oct. 29, the Komets were markedly changed in performance Friday.
It was having more time together, coach Al Sims said, and players getting to play with each other for a few weeks.
I think our defense was stifling tonight. Especially against maybe the best nine forwards in the league. To hold them to 12 shots in two periods, it was a tremendous job by our hockey team. Even the youngsters, like Llewellyn and (Bryant) Molle, are playing like veterans out there.
The Rush got their goals in the final 3:44 with defenseman Riley Weselowski scoring on a power play from the left circle and right wing Jeff Kryzakos slipping a rebound underneath goaltender Nick Boucher.
Were coming together, DeAngelis said.
This was our third game of the year. Our guys are learning our systems. Our forwards are coming back and supporting. Our defensemen, (the puck) was quick on our stick, then off our sticks to the forwards. There was a bunch of support everywhere.
The Komets play tonight at Evansville, where a crowd of over 8,000 is expected for the first game at the Ford Center.
Notes: Forward Stephen Thorne made his season debut, and goalie Kevin Beech was in the lineup for the first time, as the backup. The Komets placed center Jean-Michel Rizk on injured reserve with a groin injury. He will be available again Tuesday against Dayton. Former Komets defenseman Ryan Jorde was released by Rio Grande Valley.