The Journal Gazette
Monday, July 05, 2021 3:10 pm

Komets' GM confident Boudreau will be back

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Ben Boudreau joined exclusive company when he hoisted the Kelly Cup following Friday’s 2-1 victory over the South Carolina Stingrays in front of 10,477 fans at Memorial Coliseum.

Only five other head coaches -- Ken Ullyot, Eddie Long, Marc Boileau, Al Sims and Greg Puhalski -- had won championships with the Komets, who have captured 10 Cups in four leagues through their 69 years of play.

Boudreau, 36, led the Komets to a 9-4 postseason record, including a 3-1 victory in the Kelly Cup Finals, and he did it on an expiring contract. But Komets general manager David Franke is confident Boudreau will be back -- unless a team from the higher-level American Hockey League comes calling.

“We're in the process of talking to him and talking to his agent. I'm confident we'll get something done,” Franke said. “Unless he gets an offer to coach in the American Hockey League, I expect he’ll be back.”

Boudreau has a 60-40-13 record in two seasons, though there were no playoffs in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The firing of his predecessor, Gary Graham, in 2019 was controversial because Graham hadn’t missed the postseason, and made two Western Conference Finals in six years. But it’s now apparent the move to elevate Graham's assistant was the correct one.

Ben and Bruce Boudreau, a former Komets coach and player, are the first father and son to coach champions in the ECHL; Bruce led the Mississippi Sea Wolves to the 1999 title. There had been rumors that Ben would join Bruce in the NHL next season, as Bruce was a candidate for multiple head-coaching positions, but none panned out.

Now the Komets are hopeful they can retain Ben Boudreau and Olivier Legault, 34, his assistant coach for two seasons.

“Ben’s most deserving of coming back, along with Olivier,” Franke said. “They did a tremendous job for us. Nobody could have done any better. They stuck with the program. They convinced the guys to buy into the program. That’s all you can ask for. I’m not worried about getting a deal done for Ben at all.”

Aside from recruiting players and managing the on-ice product, Boudreau had to deal with an unprecedented number of headaches off the ice, including keeping players focused on safety protocols during the pandemic, plus horrendous travel and compacted scheduling the final six weeks of play.

During the regular season, he was 29-17-5, including a forfeit because the players voted not to play at Indy after a Fuel player tested positive for COVID-19.

“I haven’t thought about anything else other than what my task is at that very moment,” said Ben Boudreau, whose wife, Karla, is soon to give birth to their second child. “I haven’t been able to be present in my own life. I give a lot of credit to my wife, she’s eight months pregnant and she’s done everything here. This win was for a lot of people, but it’s more important that I can enjoy it with my family. Winning on Coliseum ice was pretty sweet.”

Throughout the playoff run, Boudreau had to outwit more experienced coaches -- Wichita’s Bruce Ramsay and Allen’s Steve Martinson, a 10-time Cup winner who was given a contract extension celebrated on the Americans’ video board during the second-round series.

And Boudreau outdueled South Carolina’s rookie coach, Ryan Blair, in the finals.

“I just believed in our group of guys, and I believed in the character of our individuals and in our talent,” Boudreau said. “That was our whole reason for signing so many past champions and quality people. It wasn’t supposed to be like this; it was a fairytale year ending with us 12-0 on home ice on Friday nights, in a sold-out Coliseum, it was just a fairytale ending and an incredible journey that I was happy to go on.”

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