It was one eye-blink moment in 60 minutes of hockey. But it revealed more about Stephon Thorne than any flicker of the eyelids should.
A minute or so in Sunday night, the puck in the Quad City zone, and here was a Mallards defenseman beginning to lug it out of the zone between the faceoff circles. Thorne, the most newly minted of your Fort Wayne Komets, was on the forecheck, essentially there only to give the Mallards pause as they came out of the zone.
For a moment, though, the puck came free. And Thorne was within reach of it, though not enough within reach to get off a real shot.
His solution: Simply poke-check it toward the goal – where it became the Komets’ first shot of the game when Quad City goalie David McKee was compelled to make a save.
It was heads-up, nothing-fancy play from a guy who’s made his bones as a nothing-fancy player who skates his wing and plays both ends.
I’m a defensive player, he said Sunday, taking a break from the postgame skate with the fans. I know how to block shots and do little things to get the puck out, and that’s my first mentality. And if I can score some goals, then I score some goals.
Head coach Al Sims loves the first part, and he also loves the fact Thorne just turned 21 in May. It fit the general theme of the summer for the Komets – get younger and faster – which is why Sims called Thorne and told him he was in the market for a young defensive forward.
He said We’re getting a little younger here in Fort Wayne,’ and I’m the youngest guy on the team, says Thorne, for whom Sunday was just his third game as a Komet. And I guess he liked what I saw.
Mostly that was a 6-foot, 180-pound winger who’d spent the last three seasons with Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League, where he scored 32 goals and 57 points and served as team captain last season.
Thorne already knew about Fort Wayne, thanks to the small universe that is hockey; he knew Leo Thomas because both were from Toronto, and in the summers he worked out with former Komet Danko Mironovic, a Brampton native.
So I heard really good things about this place, Thorne says.
It’ll be better yet if he can, in fact, occasionally chip in a goal or two, a concern foremost in Sims’ mind right now. The 2-3 Komets managed just two goals on 33 shots Sunday night, and flat-out missed any number of point-blank chances. In five games, they have yet to score more than three goals in regulation.
And so Sims’ assessment of Thorne?
Good defensively, killing penalties, gives you some energy, he says. But he needs to get some offense for us, and so does (Tom) Mele, so does Kaleigh (Schrock). The third line needs to pitch in now and then. All of them are pointless right now after five games.