FORT WAYNE – The Komets are banged up and trying to make a run toward the playoffs, so they solidified their offense and added a gritty defenseman before Thursday’s ECHL trade deadline.
The Komets, who are 26-20-11 and tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 15 games remaining, got forwards Aaron Clarke and Mitch Bruijsten, along with defenseman Matt Bruneteau, without giving up anyone.
Clarke, 31, came from the Orlando Solar Bears, completing the midseason trade of Mickey Lang, who leads the league in goals with 37.
Clarke’s road to the Komets has been circuitous. He began the season with Kalamazoo, tallying four goals and nine points in 25 games. He was then traded to San Francisco, where he didn’t play a game. He was dealt to Toledo, where he had 13 goals and 19 points in 26 games, before his rights were dealt to Orlando and flipped to Fort Wayne in a three-way deal Thursday.
To be able to get a player that frankly we’ve been coveting for a while is great, Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. He brings experience, and he’s an extra centerman, which is important with Dean Ouellet being out right now. He’s a playmaking centerman and good on the power play and brings really good character things to our locker room.
The Komets had traded Lang to Orlando for David Rutherford and future considerations, but Rutherford didn’t report.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Clark had nine goals and 21 points in 19 games against the Komets over the last two seasons.
Watching film of him in the offseason, he always seemed to play good at (Memorial) Coliseum, Graham said. He wants to make a run with a playoff team, and Toledo was open and up front with teams around the league that they were willing to move his rights. We wanted to make sure they knew we were interested.
Last season, Clark had 19 goals and 59 points in 72 games with Kalamazoo. He’s played 32 games in the higher-level American Hockey League with Albany, Binghamton and Providence, but none since 2009.
On Thursday, the Komets gave future considerations to Stockton for Bruijsten, a 24-year-old rookie out of Alaska-Anchorage.
In 26 games with the Thunder, the 6-4, 195-pounder had six goals and 21 points. He also played 20 games with Mississippi of the Southern Professional Hockey League and had eight goals and 12 points.
Bruneteau, 23, was signed as a free agent after captaining Lake Superior State, where he had three goals and 18 points in 146 career games. He’s listed at 5-11, 195 pounds.
He’s a defensive defenseman, a very steady guy. He’s a great shot blocker and a good penalty-kill guy. He’s got great grit and an edge to him, said Graham, whose Komets play the other eighth-place team, Florida, today and Saturday at home.
The Komets have several players battling injuries, including Ouellet (head), captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock (shoulder), Matt Carter (groin), Christian Ouellet (leg) and Jason Dale (groin).
Note: The Komets will wear special St. Patrick’s Day jerseys today and Saturday. Fans can try to win them through a raffle at both games.