When Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock was younger and just a fan of the Komets – not a player – he used to sit in the Memorial Coliseum stands and gripe if the team would play dump-and-chase hockey instead of carrying the puck into the offensive zone.
Oh, yeah, everyone wants to see the razzle dazzle, Schrock said. Like (Konstantin) Shafranov and The Russian Line going there, doing what they did. But weve got to be realistic. Were a lot better when we play the nuts-and-bolts hockey. Just get it deep and go to work.
So dont decry dump-and-chase; its a big reason behind the Komets eight victories in their past nine games.
Hockey is probably the only sport in which a team is on offense and has possession of the ball or, in this case, the puck and willingly gives it away.
Youre not giving the other team the basketball or football, said Komets coach Al Sims, who instructs his players to chip and chase the puck in the corners of the offensive zone instead of trying to stickhandle around defenders.
The reason the Komets give the puck away is to avoid giving it away at the blue line.
The Komets send the puck into the other teams zone, and then use their speed and tenacity to get to it first or steal it back in the corners. Not only does the technique strive to avoid the blue-line turnover, it can wear down the opposition and lead to a goal.
The idea is you want to have a smart dump, Schrock said. There are nights where well dump the puck in and not get pressure, and thats not a smart dump. But the hardest play in hockey is for a defenseman to turn around and go pick the puck up with a guy right on his butt. Thats the idea. We want those D-men turned around and to not see us coming.
The Komets have stocked their roster with speedy players, like Schrock, Chris Auger, Artem Podshendyalov and Leo Thomas, to get to the dumped-in pucks.
Tenacious players like Colin Chaulk, Brett Smith, Jean-Michel Rizk and Jesse Bennefield are adept at stealing it back on the forecheck or keeping it from the oppositions jabs.
Opponents like Rapid City and Bloomington play aggressively in trying to stop onrushing teams, sending three players to plug up the attack. The Komets can flip the script by blasting it by them, recapturing the puck and dominating the time of possession.
Chipping it in allows us to exploit their weaknesses. Everyone has a lot of big slow (defensemen), and if its down in their end, theyre not going to score on us, Auger said.
The biggest thing is everyone being on the same page and we have guys who are willing to go into (the corners) and get the puck back.
Of course, there are other reasons the Komets dump the puck in, like to get a line change, to take the pressure off themselves defensively and to kill time on an opposing power play.
And teams certainly dump the puck in on the Komets, meaning their defensemen have to be savvy, but they practice against that scheme every day.
We like to play more of a grinding game, said Sims, who has won four championships in 8 1/2 seasons coaching Fort Wayne. Its tougher on the other team. Once they have to work in their own zone to get the puck its tiring for them.
The Komets (13-6-0) play tonight at Wichita, Kan. A victory over the Thunder (13-7-0) would put the Komets atop the Turner Conference, since they trail Evansville by one point.