FORT WAYNE – There may be 27 games remaining in the regular season, but the Komets are already 16 points behind the first-place team in the Eastern Conference, the Reading Royals.
The Komets, who won four championships over the last five years, are still hoping to make up that ground in their first ECHL season.
It may seem a foolhardy aspiration, considering the inconsistency Fort Wayne has demonstrated this season, but the Komets have played exceptionally well over the last five periods and now they hope to replicate that tonight against Kalamazoo and Saturday against Cincinnati at Memorial Coliseum.
We’ve talked about wanting to be in first place, said forward Thomas Beauregard, who scored in the Komets’ 2-1 victory Wednesday at Kalamazoo. But to achieve that, we have to pretty much beat everyone we play (the rest of the season), especially the teams in our division. These are big games this weekend against Kalamazoo and Cincy. If we can end up winning all three games this week, we’re in a good spot. That’s our goal, to win all three games.
Heading into Thursday night, Cincinnati (26-14-5) led the North Division with 57 points, followed by Toledo (23-17-4) and Fort Wayne (24-19-2) with 50, Kalamazoo (19-20-5) with 43 and Evansville (16-26-4) with 36.
The problem is the Komets haven’t been strong at the Coliseum, where they are 10-12-0 despite a league-best attendance average of 7,402 fans per game.
We’ve got to play our games at home like we do on the road, said forward Eric Giosa, who had the winning goal Wednesday. We play simpler on the road and we’re looser. I don’t know what it is at home. Maybe we want to win so bad for the fans and we’re gripping our sticks (too tight). But we’ll be fine. We’re getting guys back healthy. Guys are clicking. Guys are working hard. And the new guys in have settled in with their linemates.
The 2010 Playoff MVP, Matt Syroczynski, who re-signed with the Komets last week, may be back in the lineup this weekend. Captain Colin Chaulk, who has missed 26 straight games with a shoulder injury and then a foot infection, will return in the next couple of weeks.
The Komets hope to do what they did in Kalamazoo and in last Saturday’s 4-2 victory at Evansville – keep opposing offenses at the perimeter and wear them down in the corners to set up the offense.
It’s all about working hard, working as a unit. We’re a pretty tough team when we do that, Giosa said. If we keep working it low, we’ll have a lot of success.
The Komets will wear special jerseys this weekend, as part of Pink the Rink weekend, to raise money for Vera Bradley Foundation and to fight breast cancer. The jerseys will be sold during a silent auction that takes place in both games.