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Defensive gem carries Komets

Sims pleased with team’s effort in 2nd straight win

– There were a couple of words spoken more than any others during the Komets’ practices last week: battle and defense.

So it’s not surprising that the Komets’ 3-1 victory Saturday over Dayton in front of 8,123 fans at Memorial Coliseum was marked by their grit and stingy defense.

“This week we really worked hard on battling and worked on the defense. That was something that had been slipping a bit,” said left wing Bobby Chaumont, whose first-period goal from the right circle got the comeback going.

“We had a great week of practice, and then we played two great games,” Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. The Komets won 3-2 at Quad City on Friday. “It turned out exactly the way we hoped it would.”

The Komets (27-13-2) had gone 5-6-1 in January and were considering making changes before Monday’s CHL trade deadline. They are less apt to do so now.

Fort Wayne’s Brent Henley and Dayton’s Robin Richards started brawling just after the opening faceoff. Richards had been a focal part of a 10-player brawl between Fort Wayne and Wichita nearly a year ago, getting a two-game suspension for jumping Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock.

While the Henley vs. Richards fight was a draw, the Gems (15-20-8) won the early action. Forward Charlie Townsend opened the scoring at 7:52 by retrieving the puck off the right boards, skating 15 feet and lifting the puck just inside the crossbar.

Less than 6 minutes later, Chaumont answered.

The only goal of the second period came from Komets center Chris Auger. He was set up by Jamie Lovell’s 60-foot pass. Auger split two defenders and lifted the puck above goaltender Larry Sterling’s outstretched glove for a 2-1 lead at 10:45.

In the third period, Komets center Brett Smith was hauled down from behind while putting a shot on Sterling, and teammate Jesse Bennefield rushed in to blast the puck into an open net.

“Well, roughly 85 percent of the teams that score the first goal win the game,” Sims said.

“Scoring the first goal is very important. When you can come back and win when the other team doesn’t, you’re in the very small minority and we managed to do it tonight. And when you manage to win with three goals, we’re playing the kind of hockey we want to be.”

The Komets are 7-11-1 when giving up the first goal this season. They came into the night with the fourth-ranked offense (3.49 goals per game) and the third-ranked defense (2.73 goals against per game).

The Gems had some opportunities to get back into the game, including two power plays in the final five minutes and a breakaway that was stopped by Boucher (24-9-1), who finished the game with 33 saves. Sterling (8-8-1) had 40.

Notes: Radio broadcaster Bob Chase missed a second straight game because of illness. He was replaced on the WOWO broadcast by Jim Shovlin, who had never called a hockey game before. Chase, in his 59th season, has been feeling better, but the Komets told him to stay home and recuperate. … Center Leo Thomas sat out a fourth straight game for Fort Wayne. He’s been a healthy scratch after missing two games because of personal reasons. The Komets also played without defenseman Dustin Molle (groin).