FORT WAYNE – The Komets were at an emotional high last weekend, after taking two of three games from the Florida Everblades in Estero, Fla., and then at a low after losing 4-1 Wednesday night to the Kalamazoo Wings in a game at Memorial Coliseum that could have put them atop the North Division.
A big difference, by the Komets’ own admission, was the physical play that was evident in Florida and mostly absent Wednesday.
“For sure, when everyone is playing physical, it makes such a big difference,” defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said.
For the Komets, physical play manifests itself as checking opposing players and, occasionally, fighting.
While checking isn’t tracked by the ECHL, the league told The Journal Gazette that the Komets have had 36 fights this season, 12th most in the ECHL through Monday. In that department, the Komets are led by captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who has 13 fights this season, tied for fifth most in the league.
Danis-Pepin, whose team is 25-17-11 heading into tonight’s game against Greenville (28-20-5), is second on the Komets with four fights.
Next, with three fights each, are Jeremy Gates and William Lacasse, who fought Yannick Veilleux on Wednesday.
While that scrap helped energize the crowd, the Komets were already down 3-1 as their home record fell to 9-7-9.
“I don’t know if we’re timid here at home or if we get a little timid because of the fans and want to do well and hold our sticks a little tighter or don’t finish our checks,” Danis-Pepin said. “When we’re on the road, we’re playing hard-nosed and hitting everything and that makes a big difference in a game.”
Stockton has had the most fights in the league with 58, followed by Ontario with 57.
The most frequent fighters in the ECHL have been Wheeling’s Patrick McGrath and Colorado’s Jesse Mychan, both with 16 fights.
But toughness isn’t just about fighting. The Komets hit to set the tone, keep the puck in the offensive zone and force opposing players away from the net.
And it helps get a buzz throughout the Coliseum.
“You can see when it happens, guys get up off the bench for sure, and it makes a huge difference when we’re hitting,” Danis-Pepin said.
On Thursday, the Komets lost one of their most physical players, defenseman Jordon Southorn, who was called up to Hamilton of the American Hockey League. He had nine goals, 23 points and two fights in 39 games with the Komets.
“We’ve just got to be better and compete harder. We don’t play with the same level of urgency here that we do on the road,” Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. “That’s disappointing to see because you can see the potential of this team when we’re playing well.
“In order to hit, you’ve got to be skating, and frankly we weren’t skating early (Wednesday). You can be chasing ghosts out there, but you can’t hit ghosts.”
Notes: Kids with an “A” or equivalent grade can get a free ticket today at the Coliseum box office if they present a report card or letter from their teacher. Donations will be made to the Literacy Alliance for every “A” student in attendance.