Brandon Hawkins has played only four times at Memorial Coliseum – totaling two goals and four points – and he's sure looking forward to now being a part of the home team.
"I'm beyond excited to play in that building, for them instead of against them, because it's not fun to come in there and play when you have every fan in that rink hating you. It's definitely (going to be) fun to be on that side of the experience,” said Hawkins, whose signing with the Komets was finalized Wednesday, after he played last season for the Wheeling Nailers.
The Komets, who are gearing up to start their 69th season around Feb. 12, also signed forward Morgan Adams-Moisan and goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon.
“Brandon is an elite-level scorer, as we saw firsthand many times last season,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “He has one of the best shots I’ve seen at this level and he’s every goalie’s nightmare because he can score from anywhere.”
Hawkins, a 26-year-old forward, totaled 16 goals and 33 points in 47 games for Wheeling last season, as a rookie out of Northeastern University. He also played six games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the higher-level American Hockey League.
His execution against Cincinnati of the so-called Michigan move – a lacrosse-style goal in which a player lifts the puck on the blade of his stick from behind the net and swings it under the crossbar – was maybe the prettiest goal in the ECHL last season.
Against Fort Wayne, he had three goals and six points in seven games, though the Komets dominated the series.
“I'm just trying to come in and play an all-around game, instead of just being the offensive guy,” Hawkins said. “I want to excel it in all parts of the game, not just be offensive, so in the end I'll be a better player and more well-rounded.”
Hawkins is a friend of Komets forward Shawn Szydlowski, as they grew up in the same Michigan area, and has long known captain A.J. Jenks. He’s the second player, along with defenseman Randy Gazzola, Fort Wayne has signed off the Toledo roster since the Walleye opted out of the season Jan. 5.
Thirteen ECHL teams began playing in December, and 12 have opted out, leaving the Komets as the only team yet to start.
The Komets have 22 players on their roster, including Adams-Moisan, 23, who had nine goals and 21 points in 55 games last season with Maine.
Guindon, 25, played last season for McGill University and was 12-8-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and two shutouts. He and Stefanos Lekkas, who has one game of pro experience with the Komets, are the only goalies currently on the Fort Wayne roster.
Gazzola, 27, had one goal and five points in seven games for the Walleye in 2018-19, then added one goal and eight points in 24 playoff games. His signing was reported Monday by The Journal Gazette but formally announced by the team Wednesday.
“Randy is a high-quality defenseman that comes with a winning history. He can be relied upon to produce offense from the blue line,” Boudreau said. “Randy can think the game better than most and we are excited to have the opportunity to sign someone of his caliber so late in the year.”