FORT WAYNE – Forward Chris Auger believed all along he would become this productive a scorer.
But not everyone did.
He’s been a real surprise, said Komets coach Al Sims, after Auger scored twice and set up the winner in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Bloomington Blaze on Wednesday in front of 6,398 fans at the Coliseum. Even at the start of the season, he was real slow starter, and that was after we were wondering if he was going to make the team or not. He’s really a smart player, a smart player.
Auger’s goals came on power plays – bringing his total to 23 for the season – and gave Fort Wayne a 2-1 lead in the first period.
Bloomington came back on third-period goals, 50 seconds apart from, defenseman Omar Pacha and forward Jordy Trottier, who was cut by Fort Wayne in favor of Auger during training camp.
Fort Wayne center Leo Thomas forced overtime and ended a 20-game drought by putting the rebound of defenseman Jamie Milam’s shot into the net at 16:11. In overtime, Brent Henley’s 70-foot pass sent Auger down the left wing, from where he shot the puck at goaltender Zane Kalemba. The puck ricocheted off the chest of center Jean-Michel Rizk and into the net, just before it came off its moorings.
I would have been upset if it had been waved off, that’s for sure, said Sims, whose team finished the season series 6-5-0 against the Blaze.
Auger, who is in his second professional season, had 14 goals and 25 points in 42 games last season with Mississippi, which left the CHL last summer.
With my personal goals, I wanted to do stuff like this, Auger said of leading the Komets in goal scoring. I’m just happy I’m contributing right now and getting an opportunity. Hopefully, I can keep doing the same things. I’m playing with two really good linemates right now in (Colin Chaulk and Artem Podshendyalov).
The Komets had played the previous seven games short of a full 18-player lineup because of suspensions and injuries. On Wednesday, they had a full complement with left wing Jesse Bennefield back after missing eight games because of a leg injury and the impending birth of his child. However, center Brett Smith, who leads the Komets with 55 points, remained out with a shoulder injury.
Everybody who has been in and out of the lineup has stepped in wonderfully all year, Auger said. But it definitely helps the legs having (a full lineup) because we’re playing a lot of games in very few nights.
It was the Komets’ 13th game since Feb. 8, and they won eight of those. Because Wichita defeated Evansville 8-5 on Wednesday, the Komets (35-17-3) pulled to within three points of the Turner Conference-leading IceMen (36-13-3).
Kalemba stopped 49 of 53 shots for Bloomington (19-28-7). Gerry Festa stopped 35 of 38 shots for the Komets, who are 4-0 in games decided in overtime and 2-3 in games that went to overtime shootouts. Both teams scored on 2 of 5 power plays.