The Komets are off to a 3-1-2 start. Their .667 winning percentage puts them in fifth place in the ECHL standings, even though the other 13 teams have all played at least 20 games.
So there's confidence in Fort Wayne, which outscored Wheeling 14-5 in three victories last weekend at Memorial Coliseum, but also recognition that the Komets still need to prove themselves against a team that isn't in last place.
“When we play our game and when we stick to our details, we've proven over the last three games that we can play well as a team,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “It took everybody (over the weekend), which is great because some are role players and some are (penalty killers) or scorers, and some are faceoff guys, and the defense has been fantastic the last three games. We're putting players into position to have some success. They're all delivering on their jobs.”
The Komets' next three games are against the league-leading Indy Fuel (19-4-1), the only team other than Wheeling (5-13-4) that Fort Wayne has met. The Fuel defeated the Komets 4-1 on Feb. 17 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, where the teams square off today, Saturday and Sunday.
Fort Wayne has 44 games remaining in the regular season, including 19 against the Fuel and 14 against the Nailers, so the Komets can't count on just success against Wheeling if they want to make the playoffs.
Indy's Nic Pierog is tied for the ECHL lead with 14 goals, and he has 12 assists, in 22 games. Against the Komets, he had two goals, three points and a fight with Morgan Adams-Moisan.
Fort Wayne's Zach Pochiro, who had a hat trick in Sunday's 6-2 victory, is on a league-best four-game goal-scoring streak. Pochiro has totaled six goals and no assists in five games, and he's scored on 6 of 15 shots for an ECHL-best scoring percentage of 40%.
“Fans and people need to bear in mind, a lot of us hadn't played in almost a year,” said Pochiro, whose Komets began their regular season two months later that the other competing teams, while 12 franchises opted out because of the pandemic. “Those first couple games, we were trying to get the kinks out, and the cobwebs, and that's tough.”
The Komets remain without Marco Roy, who suffered a concussion on a hit from Indy's Joe Sullivan, and Roy won't be back until Wednesday at the earliest. But they've had plenty of scoring in his absence. Anthony Petruzzelli has stood out, in particular, with three goals and six points. He's netted a goal in three consecutive games and has a point in every game but the one against Indy.
“Yeah, it's the guys I'm playing with right now,” Petruzzelli said. “We have an unbelievable team, top to bottom, and they make it very easy for me out there, whether it's Shawn Szydlowski or Brandon Hawkins. I could honestly go up and down the list. Any guy you can play with here, they can help you produce and score. It's a whole team effort.”
Olivier Galipeau has six assists for the Komets. Brandon Hawkins has three goals and five points. Spencer Smallman and Justin Vaive have two goals apiece.
“When you give these guys a vote of confidence to be themselves, and play to their strengths, it really shows up,” Boudreau said. “We haven't put a leash on (Pochiro) and he's found a way to deliver because he's feeling comfy. He's feeling a lot of confidence right now and you're seeing the same thing with Petruzzelli. When a player has confidence, I think it goes a long way, so we've been nothing but positive with these guys.”
Komets at Indy
When: 7:05 p.m. today, 7:05 p.m. Saturday, 3:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM