FORT WAYNE – Were the CHL following a more common format – conference vs. conference – then the Komets would certainly have more than two participants in today’s all-star game at Prescott Valley, Ariz.
Instead, forward Bobby Chaumont, defenseman Jamie Milam and defenseman Frankie DeAngelis will get some time off while goaltender Nick Boucher and center Brett Smith represent the team of CHL all-stars against the host Sundogs.
It’s an honor for myself, but I wouldn’t be going without these guys, Smith said, glancing at his teammates, who are atop the 14-team league with a record of 22-9-1.
Smith is fifth in points (41), 14th in goals (14) and second with a rating of plus-16. He was selected for the team by coach Dwight Mullins of Allen.
Boucher was picked as a starter by a panel of coaches, reporters and CHL staff. He leads the league in wins (19) and shutouts (3), and he’s second in goals-against average (2.30) and save percentage (.920).
It will be the first time playing in an all-star game for both, though Boucher was selected as an ECHL all-star in 2004-05 and had to drop out because of an injury.
My excitement isn’t stemming from playing in the game, Boucher said. It’s from going and experiencing everything. It’s a showcase for us. I’m looking forward to going and taking it all in. And, hey, it’s in Arizona, and hopefully the weather is nice.
Both players view their selections as representative of the team’s achievements. Boucher backstops the CHL’s second-best defense (2.66 goals against per game).
However, there’s no denying the impressiveness of his save percentage, which was .905 last season.
(Being an all-star) is definitely a source of pride for myself and the team, said Boucher, 31. It shows we’re doing a good job defensively. Guys block shots and back check. Goalie stats are pretty indicative of the goalie, but they’re also very representative of the whole team and how we’re playing. It’s night and day from last year.
One would think the CHL all-stars will cruise in this game, since Arizona has the second-worst record in the league (10-17-6). Last year, the all-stars defeated Rapid City 11-6.
You know how all-star games are, Smith said. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be guys doing drop passes, passes between the legs and back-door passes. Honestly, I’m just going out there looking to have a good time, relax and not worry about winning or losing, but just playing the game and having some fun.
While Boucher may be the early favorite for CHL MVP, don’t overlook the contributions of Smith, 31. He has tallied a point in all but five games, and the Komets rank second in offense (3.66 goals per game).
He’s not a flashy player, Boucher said. He works hard, obviously, and he can grind it out. He’s got the skill. ... He’s not a Vladimir Nikiforov of Bloomington – you notice him. He’s a fast player. He’s small and creates stuff out there every time, and you’ve got to watch him. Smitty will just go about his business and seems to be in the right place at the right time a lot. He’s got the nose for the net in the hockey sense. You can’t really teach it. You’re either given it. It’s a gift that you have, or you don’t.