Archive for December, 2005

A happy new year

December 31, 2005

The Komets whipped Roanoke 6-0. Playing with seven forwards and four defensemen, Roanoke never had a chance. The Komets looked sharp right from the opening faceoff as some new lines looked like they’d been together all season.

It kind of reminded me of the Komets/oldtimers vs. the Fire Department team this summer. The Komets had about double the talent on the ice, even though the Vipers played hard all night. They just didn’t have enough manpower. As soon as the Komets got to 3-0, you could tell the Vipers just wanted to get the game over with and start the bus ride home.

If Michael Wiggins had played this hard when he was a Komet, he’d be leading the league in scoring. He was all over the place, though he did get knocked on his can a few times. He was easily Roanoke’s best player.

The Komets are bringing in two new players on Monday. Defenseman John Jarram was acquired in a trade from Elmira for future considerations. They are also bringing in forward Garrett Summerfield who recently finished his eligibility for UMass-Amherst. He doesn’t have great stats, but he’s supposed to be an energy guy. The Komets just need another rookie.

Some more notes about the game:

* For the second time this season, the the Komets drew more than 10,000 fans on Saturday night. Since the Memorial Coliseum renovation was completed in 2002, the Komets have gone 11-1-1 when playing before crowds of 10,000 or more and have won six in a row.

* The Komets have killed off 23 consecutive power plays against.

* Saturday’s shutout was the 16th of Kevin St. Pierre’s career in the United Hockey League, breaking the record he held with Muskegon’s Joe Dimaline. It was also his 13th as a Komet, which is one behind Robbie Irons’ record of 14.

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Some dismal numbers

December 30, 2005

The Komets were shut out for the second game in a row and have not scored a goal in their last 129 minutes, 17 seconds. The franchise record for going scoreless is 168 minutes, 22 seconds set last season set last February when they were shut out in back-to-back games by Missouri.

The Komets have been shut out in back-to-back games six times in their history but they’ve never been shut out in three straight games. Last year the Komets tied a Fort Wayne pro hockey record by being shut out six times in a season. This year they’ve already been shut out four times in 29 games.

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Does this sound familiar?

December 30, 2005

In this previous Komets season, the team was coming off a trip to the playoff finals (A). Management had the option of breaking up the team and going younger, but decided those players had earned another chance and brought most of them (B) back. Because the team was so successful the year before, everyone wanted a raise which limited the budget on what management could do looking for players so the squad lacked depth. That team did manage to bring back a former star (C) and a sniper (D) with European ties.

The Komets looked good on paper, but the lineup didn’t work on the ice. The team got out of the gate very slowly, thanks in part to some terrible injuries (E).

Doesn’t that sound like deja vu? It was the 1994-95 season and the answers are A) Turner Cup Finals, this year the Colonial Cup Finals; B)they brought back 13 players, this year 12; C) Paul Willett, this year Guy Dupuis; D) Igor Chibirev and this year Mark Smith; and E)Colin Chin’s knee and Kevin Miehm’s concussions; this year Jason Kean’s concussion and the flu, which by the way is making another round through the locker room. There was even the coincidence of Smith leaving for Europe and Chibirev, who was the team’s leading goal scorer at the time, getting called up to Hartford. That team finished 34-39-8, the Komets’ lowest win total since 1976-77, but they did make the playoffs.

Going through that season, gives me some hope that the Komets will be able to make it through this season and bounce back fairly quickly. They’ve already proven this year they can rebuild a UHL team on the fly, and there’s plenty of time left in the season. There’s not a ton of time, but there is some time. I think the Frankes learned a lot that season, and we’ll see what happens now.

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News flash

December 29, 2005

Forward Mark Smith has announced he’s leaving the Fort Wayne Komets to play for a team in Norway. Smith, the Komets’ second-leading scorer, told coach Greg Puhalski of his decision at practice this morning at McMillen Park Ice Arena. He’s leaving Monday and won’t play for the Komets this weekend.

"It’s just because they came up with a really good offer," Smith said. "You have to take them when they come your way. It is a good chunk of money. You always get paid well over there and it’s tax free. Going to Europe is more my style of game. I’m getting older and my dream of playing in the NHL is not very good. That’s where you ‘re going to make the most of your money."

Smith said he twice turned down European offers this season. The Komets tried to talk him out of it, but Smith had already made his decision.

"It’s not about the money (here) or anybody," he said. "I’ve been having a hard time sleeping the past couple of days because this is a big decision. Players come and go all the time. I hate to do it because we’re just starting to become a great team. I can’t stress enough that it’s not about anybody on the team. They gave me all the respect. It’s not that I’m not happy here. This is just too good a deal to pass up."

Smith is signed for the rest of this season and has a guaranteed contract for next season in Norway. The news is so fresh that he couldn’t immediately recall the name of the city where he would be playing.

"One man’s loss is another man’s opportunity I guess," Komets coach Greg Puhalski said. "We have some extra forwards around here. We’ll see what they have. He wants to play in Europe and there’s no sense whining about it. We’ll go with what we have and do what we have to do."

Komets General Manager David Franke said the team will continue looking for players, though he was shocked at Smith’s move.

"There was nothing we could say or do that was going to change his mind," Franke said. "For the short-term we’ll go with what we’ve got, and we’ll look for a replacement. I don’t know if that will happen or when, but we’ll be looking.

"It’s disappointing because we had made some moves, and I think we had the team turned around and headed in the right direction," Franke said. "Now this comes along and we have to re-tool again."

The worst news for the Komets might be the fact that Smith is not a veteran, and the Komets have already have the maximum of seven that they can play in each game. Franke said there’s a possibility the team will sign an eighth veteran if necessary.

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Interesting comment

December 28, 2005

I thought this was interesting coming from coach Greg Puhalski after last night’s game as he was talking about the lack of spark in the Komets’ play:

“If you feel like that, then you’ve got to try to change the attitude and mix it up, and we didn’t do that,” Puhalski said. “Some of our physical players didn’t try to help the hockey club by changing momentum, they just went along with flow. They know better. They have to help the team out in those areas. You want to change momentum, you have to do certain things in order to change that.”

Puhalski gets slammed all the time for supposedly not wanting physical, aggressive teams, but he talks all the time about wanting to set the tone at home with physical play. I wonder if sometimes the coach doesn’t get too much of the blame for not having physical teams.

Now, before someone accuses me of being soft on Puhalski (which I’m sure he’d laugh at), think about this: How many teams actually do play the old physical style any more? Maybe Danbury, which we haven’t seen here yet? (Did you realize that Danbury has 32 majors and the Komets have 28?) Other than that, there’s no one that does, even though that’s the one thing fans want to see more than anything else. I’d also argue, and there are stats to back it up, that this year’s Komets team is more physical than any of the past four or five teams in terms of body checks.

That still doesn’t come close to matching the physical intensity of some of the Al Sims’ Komets teams of the early 1990s, but the whole sport has become finesse driven. I’d argue that the rules have taken some of the physical play out of the game, even though the best way to combat a finesse team is to take the body.

Ah, the good old days.

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Wonder why

December 27, 2005

Why is it that whenever there’s a significant delay to starting a game, the home team always falls flat on its face? Is it because the fans are impatient after waiting? Do the players lose their focus in the locker room while waiting? No one had any answers after the game tonight, but it always seems to happen.

Remember in 1999-2000 when Ohio won 12 games the entire season? I can’t even remember the nickname, that’s how relevant that team was, but they came into Fort Wayne on Dec. 28, got there like 90 minutes late and still beat the Komets 2-1. If I remember correctly, it ended a long losing streak for Ohio, too.

I know the Komets have done it a few times in recent years at Rockford and Port Huron, too.

Last night it was only a 15-minute delay, but I was on Quad City radio with Aaron Roof and I said the delay would kill the Komets. They sure came out flat.

Sure, say the theory may be hogwash, but why does it always happen?

Tonight’s game, on both sides, was also a perfect example of why UHL officials need to start calling it when players dive. That was ridiculous. When a players’ stick smacks the ice, that’s a dive. When his knees hit first, that’s a dive. Some of the players had better twirling moves tonight than Icy had during his Nutcracker rendition. When they stick their hands together with arms extended it’s a dive. I swear I saw a couple of players hold their noses before they hit the ice.

The sad thing was, they got the call more often than not. That was awful.

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The answers

December 27, 2005

1. 1986.

2. Two: Paul and Perry Pooley and Mike and Neil Buchanan.

3. Colin Chaulk and Troy Neumeier

4. Wally Schreiber

5. Mark Wells, Steve Janaszak and Slava Butsayev

6. John Torchetti for using an ineligible player

7. Jeff MacMillan played four games with the Dallas Stars in 2003-04

8. Colin Chaulk

9. Jason Hueppelsheuser

10. Mike Torchia

11. Dave Farrish

12. Kevin Kaminski

13. Bruce Boudreau

14. Moose Lallo

15. Max Middendorf

16. Scott Gruhl

17. Bruce Boudreau

18. Bruce Boudreau

19. Don Atchison

20. Wes McCauley

We had a whopping two entries and Phil Harber is the winner with 17 correct, which is pretty darn impressive.

So was this worth it, was it a waste of time or just bad timing?

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Impressive numbers

December 26, 2005

Here are some statistics that indicate what kind of roll the Komets are currently on.

Goaltender Kevin St. Pierre has eighth straight games. St. Pierre holds the UHL Koemts record with 10 straight wins set last January. Pokey Reddick won 15 straight games for the IHL Komets in 1993.

During the eight-game streak, St. Pierre has given up only 12 goals with a .947 save percentage. During December he is 8-2-0 with a .927 save percentage. During his winning streak, St. Pierre has improved his season goals from a 3-5-1 record with a 3.02 goals against average and .893 save percentage to 12-5-1 2.32 goals against average and .918 save percentage.

A shutout would have given St. Pierre 16 for his career and would have established a UHL record for a career, a record he holds with Muskegon ’s Joe Dimaline who retired in 2003. The Komets coughed up the puck in their own zone, and Quad City’s Glenn Detulleo scored with 1:18 left in the third period.

One reason for the Komets’ hot streak has been the play of captain Colin Chaulk who scored two goals Monday night and has 17 points in 12 December games. That trails only linemate Mark Smith who assisted both of Chaulk’s goals and has 18 points in 10 games during December.

Another area the Komets have improved up on is in special teams. Their penalty kill has scored at least one goal in eight of their last nine games, 11 goals overall in that stretch.

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Trivia entry

December 26, 2005

So far we have one entrant for the trivia contest, Phil Harber, who did an outstanding job. He was not able to get them all correct, though, so there’s still hope for anyone else who would like to enter. The winner gets a stick autographed by this year’s Komets team.

The deadline is 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Hope everyone had as good a Christmas as I did.

Blake

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Trivia contest

December 23, 2005

Since I don’t plan on posting over the next few days, I thought I’d come up with this to occupy some of your time. I tried to get a mixture of old and recent, with a heavy emphasis on recent, especially since 1990. The grand prize to the person with the most correct answers will be a stick signed by the entire Komets team. Because there’s a prize, you must copy and paste your answers and e-mail them to me at bsebring@news-sentinel.com. If there’s a tie, (which I expect) we’ll hold a drawing.

Some of these should be pretty easy if you’ve been reading The News-Sentinel over the past couple of years or so. You might be able to find answers to most of these in special News-Sentinel publications about the Komets from over the past 10 years or so. That’s a major hint, by the way.

The deadline will be 3 p.m. Tuesday. Any decision of the judge is final (but he can definitely be bribed).

Have fun.

1. What year did the Komets last play on Christmas? Check out Saturday’s paper because the answer won’t be on-line.

2. How many pairs of twin brothers have played for the Komets? This one is very easy if you don’t think too hard because the number is very appropriate.

3. How many players are left on the Fort Wayne roster from the Komets’ 2003 Colonial Cup championship team?

4. What former Komet played in three Olympics? Here’s a hint: He’s the oldest former Komet who is still active as a player.

5. What three former Komets have won Olympic gold medals? It will be a miracle if you don’t get the first two.

6. Who was the last Komets coach to be suspended for a game?

7. Besides Steve Gainey, who is the other UHL Komet to make it to the NHL?

8. Everyone knows Rob Guinn set up Jonathan Goodwin for the series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 against Rockford last year. Who got the other assist? Take a guess.

9. Josh VanderBreggen had the second-longest last name of any Komet ever. Who had the longest?

10. Who said: “I’ve heard it all about the weight. I just let it bounce off me." Hint: he was a goaltender.

11. What former Komets coach got kicked out of a game for doing a striptease?

12. Who said: "To me the scars didn’t matter. I would do anything to win."

13. Who said: "My shot couldn’t break out of a wet paper bag."

14. An easy one. Who said: "H—, no, it’s not mandatory! You all gotta be there."

15. Who said this when describing the Memorial Coliseum: “It’s like a minor-league Chicago Stadium."

16. Who said: "The only friends I’ll have when I leave the game are the guys on the last team I played on."

17. In regard to the 1990-91 Komets, who said: "Nobody wanted us. We were the Dirty Dozen of hockey."

18. Who said: "When Fletchie’s suits up, the whole team plays bigger."

19. What former Komet is the mayor of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan?

20. What former Komet is now an NHL referee?

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