KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Not many fans of the Komets actually get to experience playing in Kalamazoo and Toledo, cities known for their hockey history and for their hatred of Fort Wayne.
Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who grew up in Fort Wayne and is in his fourth season as a member of the team, has finally been getting to experience that, though.
I had never been here for a game (before this season), if you can believe it, Schrock said, after the Komets’ 6-5 victory at Wings Stadium on Saturday. I had heard a lot about it, and I had heard (Bob Chase) announce games from here on the radio. But I had never seen it in person and it’s a fun place to play.
Schrock helped the Komets to the IHL championship in 2010, but that was the season after Kalamazoo abruptly and controversially defected to join the ECHL, leaving the closely situated rival Komets behind.
Fort Wayne and Kalamazoo had played from 1972 to 1999 and 2000 to 2009.
I had missed out on this rivalry my first three years on the team, but now it’s fun, said Schrock, whose Komets are 1-1-1 against Kalamazoo, including 1-0-1 at Wings Stadium.
Schrock and the Komets played in the CHL from 2009 to last spring, when they won the championship and then decided to join the ECHL, which also had Toledo, a hated rival of the Komets from 1952 to 1986 in the original IHL.
The Komets won the only meeting so far this season between the teams – 4-3 on Friday night at Toledo – which conjured up some memories for Schrock, who played his junior hockey for the Toledo IceDiggers of the North American Hockey League.
We played in a much smaller building than (the Huntington Center) or the (now-razed) Toledo Sports Arena; it was called the Ice House, the Bryan Smolinski’ Ice House, Schrock said, referring to the former NHL player who grew up in Genoa, Ohio.
And I played alongside (future Komets) Eric Giosa and Bobby Phillips, actually, in Toledo.
Schrock has one assist and 24 penalty minutes for the Komets (5-2-1), who are on their first three-game winning streak in the ECHL and play Wednesday morning at Toledo in a school appreciation game.
Fort Wayne’s Colin Chaulk is on a five-game point-scoring streak, while Brandon Marino was tied for fifth in the 23-team ECHL with 14 points heading into Sunday.
The Komets, who are 3-0-1 on the road, trail Cincinnati (6-0-2) by three points for first place in the North Division.
Notes: Former Komets forward Justin Hodgman is one of the leading scorers in the Kontinental Hockey League, the Russian circuit stocked with NHL players because of the lockout. Despite limited ice time, he has eight goals and 19 points in 22 games for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Hodgman scored the triple-overtime Game 7 winner in the 2008 IHL finals and was named Playoff MVP.