FORT WAYNE – Chris Auger had accounted for almost 13 percent of the Komets’ goal scoring over the last 13 months.
So it’s a bit scary for his teammates to think about the future without the forward.
It’s just frustrating, you know? said captain Colin Chaulk, who was Auger’s linemate when they won the CHL’s President’s Cup last season.
Auger will miss the rest of the season because of knee injuries suffered last weekend – he tore his anterior-cruciate ligament and meniscus and strained his medial-collateral ligament – on a hit from Evansville’s Aaron Gens.
Chris and I, we were really excited this season to play together again, Chaulk said.
Auger had 28 goals in 57 games last season, 10 goals in 18 playoff games and he had one in the first four games this season, as the Komets went 2-1-1.
Add to that Auger’s 44 assists, and it’s clear there’s a big hole to fill as Fort Wayne plays its first two games against the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators (2-2-1) tonight and Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Komets decided not to add anyone to the roster this week to replace Auger, 24, though rookie Matt Firman will probably take Auger’s spot in the lineup.
General manager David Franke said he believes, in particular, Josh Brittain must pick up the slack. Brittain, 22, has one goal in four games.
Someone goes down or something happens, the old saying goes, Everyone should be interchangeable, and it should be an opportunity for somebody else,’ Chaulk said. You never want to lose somebody, but that’s how it is in sports. It gives someone an opportunity to display their ability.
If they take the opportunity and run with it, then it’s like any other job and (the team) may not need to make a change. If they don’t, then (management) is going to be looking (for someone else).
The Komets’ offense had been stagnant even with Auger this season; they and Gwinnett are tied at 15th with 2.75 goals per game. But Fort Wayne’s defense ranks sixth with 2.5 goals against per game (Gwinnett is 14th at 3.5), and coach Al Sims is pleased with the mettle showed by the Komets.
The last two games have both gone to overtime shootouts – a 1-0 loss at Kalamazoo, Mich., on Oct. 19 and the 4-3 victory over Evansville on Saturday – as the Komets have been working on their chemistry with only eight players back from last season.
It makes your team reach down and have to pull something out early in the season when they aren’t quite together yet, Sims said.
Gwinnett may be a new opponent for the Komets, but it is only about 40 minutes from Atlanta. The Komets and Atlanta Knights played in the original IHL from 1992 to 1996, including Atlanta’s six-game victory over Fort Wayne in the 1994 Turner Cup Finals.
Notes: The American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers recalled goaltender Kenny Reiter from the Komets. In three games this season, Reiter had a 1-0-1 record with a 0.83 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage. The Komets will dress Marco Cousineau and Charlie Effinger as their goalies today and Saturday. The Komets will hold their annual Halloween costume parade for kids during the first intermission tonight, and there will be prizes for the top costumes.