FORWAYNE – None of the Komets who played in the seven-game Turner Conference finals victory over the Missouri Mavericks saw less playing time than Tom Mele.
But not everyone had as big an impact.
The Komets 10th forward, in his first full professional season, is known for his energy, his punishing hits and his opportunistic goal scoring.
In the last two games, those attributes were apparent.
Coach Al Sims put him in the starting lineup Tuesday and his early hit energized the Komets, who went on to a 4-1 Game 6 victory. He started again in Game 7 and his goal, just after he got off the bench in the second period, tied it at 2 in what became a 6-4 victory for Fort Wayne.
Nobody could beat (Mavericks goalie) Charlie Effinger going in like that the entire series, Sims said of Meles 15-foot wrist shot from the slot. And Mele beat him.
Mele had six goals, 17 points and a plus-10 rating in 51 regular-season games. Even though Sims has said Mele could skate on the top line of most teams in the CHL, hes been relegated to spot duty in the postseason.
Youve got to approach every game the same, said Mele, who has two goals, three points and plus-1 rating in 12 playoff games. You start preparing the night before. If you get one shift or 20 shifts, I just try to go out there and make something happen and hopefully it works. As long as were winning, Ill sit on the bench as much as I have to.
To win the Presidents Cup finals, the Komets will have to steal at least one road game and continue to get scoring from role players like Mele and defenseman Jamie Lovell, who also scored Thursday.
Its huge when you get scoring from unexpected sources, Sims said. Tommy was great in the entire series (with Missouri). Whether he got one shift in a game or 10 shifts in a game, he found a way to help our team win.
Hes playing his best hockey at this time of the year.
Forward Chris Auger agreed.
I cant say enough about (Mele), Auger said. In the (Missouri) series and even the Rapid City series, he had more and more responsibility. And hes responding. For a team to go far in the playoffs, you need depth.