FORT WAYNE – How’s this for a tough first day on the job as captain? Find out two of the best players in the entire league are gone from your locker room with no one to replace them, then play with only eight natural forwards in the first of three games in three nights.
That was the situation Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock was in Friday. Donning the C on his jersey, he was ecstatic with the way his Komets responded in a 4-3 victory over the Toledo Walleye.
“It feels good to just win,” Schrock said, after Scott Fleming’s goal from 20 feet out with 4:36 remaining won it for the Komets in front of 7,577 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“You’ve seen it at this level: There’s so much parity and anybody can play any role. We had guys come in and do a great job for us tonight. That’s what I’m going to expect from any top-six guy on this team. They’re going to score goals.
“I thought we were a little bit better defensively, too. That’s all that matters. As long as we win, I don’t care who’s here doing it, really.”
Schrock was given the captaincy by coach Gary Graham on Thursday night, and the following morning came news that forwards Mickey Lang and Mike Vaskivuo had cleaned out their lockers.
No one is saying if the divorce was precipitated by Lang and Vaskivuo, who are roommates, or the Komets themselves. But the Komets are looking to trade Lang and Vaskivuo after they were placed on team suspension.
“We’re moving forward with the guys we had in the lineup tonight,” Graham said. “We like the guys that we have. From the team’s perspective, Lang and Vaskivuo didn’t quite fit in with what we’re doing here. We’re not going to comment a lot on it … but you have to be able to roll with the punches.
“At the end of the day, I have no problem with taking accountability with some of the stuff that has gone on here. It’s my job to get the best out of the guys that we have here. … We’re just trying to get the right culture and environment to do that.”
Lang, in his first season with the Komets, led the ECHL with 17 goals and had 26 points in 24 games. Vaskivuo, the playoff MVP when the Komets won the 2012 CHL title, had five goals and 21 points in 23 games.
The Komets (11-9-5) were left with only eight natural forwards, including newly signed Sy Nutkevitch, and Jeremy Gates, back from a foot injury, moved from defense to forward.
The Komets got the first two goals: During a 5-on-3 power play, defenseman Jordon Southorn netted a 45-foot shot at 7:52, and at 11:57, forward Mike Embach finished off a 2-on-1 rush.
Forward Brandon Marino tucked the rebound of a Southorn shot inside the left goalpost at 6:05 of the second period for a 3-0 lead.
But Toledo’s Kyle Rogers answered 54 seconds later. The Walleye (8-14-3) then got goals from Scott Arnold and David Gilbert at 5:35 and 13:55 of the third period.
“I really liked what I saw out of our guys tonight in the locker room and on the bench,” Graham said. “When things got tight there in front of a great home crowd – it was 3-3 – it was something that I knew if we kept staying on them, we’d get some great chances … and we would get that fourth goal.”