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Offseason acquisitions key to Komets’ turnaround

The Komets are atop the 14-team CHL with a record of 22-9-1 – that’s one point better than Wichita, the Berry Conference leader – and what a difference that is compared to last season.

Through 32 games last season, the Komets were 11-16-5 and last among what was 18 teams.

So what’s changed?

“It’s definitely flip-flopped,” said coach Al Sims, who had guided the Komets to three straight championships in the IHL before the team joined the younger, faster CHL in 2010.

“Last year, we were trying to find out how to win and how to get the right combination of players here. This year, with the recruitment in the summer that we put in, we got the right guys here this year. We started off a little slow; guys weren’t used to each other. But the team really came together at 5-5.”

The Komets have won 17 of their last 22 games, and they’ve been led by offseason pickups like center Brett Smith, who is fifth in CHL scoring with 41 points and will play, along with Fort Wayne goaltender Nick Boucher, in the All-Star Game at Prescott Valley, Ariz., on Wednesday night.

Some other big pickups in the offseason were forward Bobby Chaumont (14 goals, 39 points), defenseman Jamie Milam (7 goals, 20 points), forward Chris Auger (13 goals, 23 points), forward Jesse Bennefield (15 points) and defenseman Brent Henley (plus-12 rating).

“There’s not too much to be upset about with your team,” Sims said, “and that’s a great thing.”

Boucher, an All-Star Game starter, leads the league in wins (19) and shutouts (three), and he is second in goals-against average (2.30) and save percentage (.920).

As a team, the Komets rank second in offense (3.66 goals per game) and defense (2.66 goals against per game), and they have the top power play (25.5 percent efficiency).

Last season, the Komets reached the Turner Conference semifinals, losing to Rapid City in the maximum five games. But last season, 16 teams made the playoffs. This year, only eight will do so.

“I was always impressed with this team last year,” said Smith, who captained Bossier-Shreveport to the CHL championship, while he was a teammate of Milam.

“They played the Mudbugs hard all the time and they had some talent. Obviously, they were missing a couple of pieces here and there.

“I guess we’ve found the right mix and we’ve established an identity. If we keep working like we are, there’s no question we can go far.”