FORT WAYNE – The Komets have a knack for finding young players from the junior or college ranks, bringing them in just before the playoffs and getting major contributions from them.
Justin Hodgman was the playoff MVP en route to the 2008 IHL championship. Jamie Milam got his start with the Komets in 2006 – when he was still a forward. Last year’s discovery was Tom Mele.
So it’s not surprising that defenseman Daniel Maggio has been given such responsibility in the playoffs, after he finished his junior career with the Oshawa Generals.
Maggio, 21, has played in 12 of the Komets’ 15 playoff games. He has one goal and three points, has seen plenty of time on special teams and has helped the Komets get within two victories of taking the CHL’s President’s Cup.
The Komets lead the Thunder 2-0 in the best-of-seven finals, with Game 3 at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday.
It’s been a great experience, Maggio said. I just want to do my best and help the team win.
Maggio scored his first professional goal in Sunday’s 6-3 victory at Intrust Bank Arena.
After Colin Chaulk won a faceoff back to him cleanly, he blasted a slap shot from the blue line past Wichita Thunder goaltender Adam Russo, putting the Komets up 2-1.
An unbelievable shot, Komets coach Al Sims said. That thing was a rocket. It hit the net and came out like a bullet. The kid, we knew he had a good shot, but that was the first time he’s really let one go. He blew it right by Russo. I don’t know if he saw it.
It’s a tremendous lift for the kid. He’s playing great hockey defensively and for him to pitch in that way and get a goal, I know it meant a lot to him.
Maggio has been so good that it’s forced Sims to keep David Starenky in the stands the last two games. But Maggio’s willingness to hit has meant Fort Wayne hasn’t had a big drop-off in physical play.
I’m a big guy and like to finish every hit, said Maggio, who is 6-foot-3, 202 pounds. And I think I’ve got a pretty good shot. I just want to help the team win, and that’s why I came here.
Maggio was a sixth-round pick of the New York Rangers in the 2009 NHL draft. He had seven goals, 19 points and 117 penalty minutes in 66 games this season with Oshawa.
He knows not many players get to win championships, certainly not in their first seasons, so he wants to help make sure the Komets don’t let up against the regular-season champion Thunder.
It’s a great start. We came here just wanting to get one (victory) and getting two was even better. Now we’ve got to keep the same pace we’ve got going and bring it back home, said Maggio, a native of Windsor, Ontario.
You can’t take it for granted. You’ve got a great team over there. We’ve got to keep our emotions level now.
Note: Former Komets star Sean Venedam, who had his right leg amputated below the knee last summer, made the Canadian Standing Amputee National team and will compete in the World Championships in Finland, starting today. Venedam had the amputation as the result of an injury suffered on the ice in 2008 with Bakersfield of the ECHL. The Laredo Bucks will not operate during the 2012-13 season, and the players will be declared unrestricted free agents, the Central Hockey League said today. The team’s owners will maintain their license agreement in the league, the CHL said in a statement.