FORT WAYNE – When Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock was named captain of the Komets on Dec. 26, it wasn’t the first time he had the C sewn onto his jersey.
He captained Neumann University to the Division III national championship in 2009. And Schrock took some lessons from that experience that he’s using today with the Komets, who are battling to make it into the ECHL playoffs.
It’s how you respond, as a team, to the ebbs and flows within the season and how the guys understand that process, Schrock said. We were a .500 team at Neumann and rattled off a bunch of wins in a row. There are a lot of similarities to this team.
Neumann was 12-9-2 before winning its final nine games, including the 4-1 championship game victory over Gustavus Adolphus in Lake Placid, N.Y.
This season’s Komets are 26-18-11 and have 17 games remaining in the regular season. The top eight teams in the Eastern Conference will make the playoffs, which Fort Wayne didn’t qualify for last year, and Fort Wayne is in seventh place with 63 points.
Only 13 points separate conference-leading South Carolina (73) and 10th-place Evansville (60).
The Komets can’t afford to lose much the rest of the way, and Schrock knows it. And he hopes he can keep his teammates motivated, as he did at Neumann and as he helped captain Colin Chaulk do when the Komets won the 2010 IHL championship and the 2012 CHL championship.
I think you definitely have to come together as a team, Schrock said. The two biggest things are: Great teams respond well to adversity; and great teams peak at the right time. For the Fort Wayne Komets, we have to understand we peaked in a way already (going 14-5-6 between Dec. 31 and Feb. 22), but that’s not us at our best.
I know we had a great stretch to get us back in a playoff race and we were fighting for second or third place, but then we lose a couple games and we’re on the outside looking in again.
The Komets play Saturday and Sunday at Kalamazoo, Mich., and the Wings (32-18-5) are six points up on Fort Wayne.
The Komets are coming off a 1-0 victory Sunday at Evansville, in which goaltender Ben Meisner stopped 35 shots and forward Chris Auger had the lone goal.
Schrock believes his team, which has reshaped its roster with 10 trades and used 37 players this season, has what it takes to get into the postseason and make a run toward a championship.
It takes more than one guy, said Schrock, who has five goals, 12 points and 144 penalty minutes in 53 games. It takes everybody holding each other accountable. We have that in the room. We have a lot of guys who have been there. It’s not just one guy’s job (to lead).
We feel good about ourselves and have a good locker room, and you can say things to another guy and he won’t take it personal. It’s all about business. If you don’t have that, it’s a struggle. And we didn’t have that at beginning of the year. We had guys tough to talk to and they wouldn’t listen. It’s not about one guy; it’s about having the right troops.