FORT WAYNE – Komets coach Al Sims wasn’t sure what he had with forward Chris Auger.
Sims knew what he’d heard from other coaches and had seen Auger as an opponent twice last season; he could read from online dossiers – that Auger had some scoring prowess and had played some defense throughout his college career at Massachusetts-Lowell.
But Sims didn’t know he was getting a do-everything utility player who would become one of the key components of the Fort Wayne roster.
(Auger) struggled at the beginning to get his points and scoring going, said Sims, who has seen Auger produce five goals and 11 points in the past 11 games, going only two of those games without a point.
He brings so much more to the table than scoring, with his speed and back checking, his playing of the systems, penalty killing. He plays the point on the power play. He does a lot of things for us that I wasn’t sure he could do, but he’s really come on.
So have the Komets, who have won six in a row, the longest current stretch in the CHL heading into tonight’s game at Bloomington, Ill.
The Komets are 11-5-0, one point behind Evansville for the Turner Conference lead. Through 16 games last season, the Komets were 5-10-1, remaining in last place until February.
Auger, 23, is one of 13 Fort Wayne players who weren’t on the roster last season, when the Komets were eliminated by Rapid City in the Turner Conference semifinals.
He has played a handful of games on the blue line, when the Komets were short-handed, and he’s got 12 points and a plus-6 rating this season.
I just try to be solid defensively, said Auger, who had 14 goals and 25 points in 42 games as a rookie last season with Mississippi of the CHL. Then, I can provide that offensive game, when I get the opportunity to do so, and I have been getting quite a few opportunities lately. ... It’s started to turn around, and I want to provide that good secondary scoring.
The Komets have gotten a lot of scoring lately from center Brett Smith, who has a point in 14 of the last 15 games, and Jean-Michel Rizk, who has 11 points in the last 11 games.
Auger, 5-foot-10, 178 pounds, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006. He has been a good complementary player.
I rely on my speed, yes, and finding just the soft spots (in the opposing defenses), Auger said. I try to just find the open spaces and if I’m playing with someone like (Colin) Chaulk, he generally gets the puck over to me. Or, if I’m playing with Leo (Thomas), those guys like controlling the middle of the ice, and if you use your speed and find the time and find some space, you’re going to have some success with them.
The Fort Wayne offense ranks third with 3.63 goals per game. Bloomington (3-12-2) has the league’s worst defense, giving up 4.35 goals per game.
We’re one of the few teams in the league that relies on chipping it in deep and then getting the pucks to the net, Auger said. We’ve got guys who are able to get the puck in the net when we get it there. We have small, gritty forwards, who go straight to the front of the net. Look at (Smith’s) goals and my goals – they have all been right on top of the paint. We’re going to keep doing that.
Notes: There will be calling today, 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at D.O. McComb & Sons Lakeside Park Funeral Home, 1140 Lake Ave., for former Komets player William Billy Richardson, who died Monday. There will be a private internment at Lindenwood Cemetery. Richardson, 85, played for the Komets from 1954 to 1958. His best season, 1955-56, he scored 18 goals and 45 points in 60 games. Memorials may be made to the SPCA. To sign an online guestbook, go to mccombandsons.com.