FORT WAYNE – The question wasn’t whether defenseman Jamie Milam would make the Komets better. It was whether it was too late.
It’s still too early to tell, but Milam’s goal in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Toledo Walleye on Wednesday was a step in the right direction.
Milam, 28, has two goals in seven games, of which Fort Wayne has won only two.
The Komets play the next two games – tonight and Saturday – in North Charleston, S.C., to play the South Carolina Stingrays, who are eight points ahead of the Komets for the eighth and final playoff spot with 14 games remaining in the regular season.
There has been an adjustment period for Milam who spent the first half of the season in England and Poland, scoring three goals and 12 points in 18 games.
I knew it would be a faster game, a different game coming back (to America), Milam said, and I know it would be more physical than what I had experienced this season.
Milam certainly wasn’t the first player to go to Europe and come back because it lacked the comforts of playing hockey in the states.
I’m happy to have had the experience, but I’m happier to be back. That’s just a different hockey world over there. You get used to things and being privileged over here. Then you go over there and it’s night and day, how things are done and how things are treated. It’s good to be back. It took two days in this locker room to have more fun than I was having over there.
The Komets are 28-28-2. South Carolina is 30-24-6.
Milam’s biggest task is to help improve the Komets’ power-play unit, which ranks 22nd of the ECHL’s 23 teams at 12.6 percent.
And while he was apt to throw devastating hits last season – he had 20 goals and 41 points in 66 regular-season games – he’s still re-acclimating himself to the speed of the prospect-laden ECHL.
It’s faster here, he said. It’s a slower, puck-control, non-physical style there in Europe. There are hits and everything, but the better players are the ones that hang on to the puck and make slower, more predictable plays than this league. But it works over there. The ice surface is bigger there. I come back here and everything is jammed together and you have a lot less time.
The Komets are running out of time, if they want to win a fifth championship in six years.