Though he wasn't too happy at times during the game, Komets coach Al Sims was delighted afterward with his team's performance in a 2-1 win at Kalamazoo on Saturday night. The 4-0 Komets are the only undefeated team left in the International Hockey League.
"It was the type of game I think our team needed," Sims said. "We showed a lot of character and a lot of heart. We had to see how we could perform with the game on the line, and everybody did a great job."
The Komets led 1-0 after the first period on Colin Chaulk's first goal of the season, but the Wings tied it on Glenn Detulleo's five-on-three power-play goal in the second period. It's the second night in a row that the Komets gave up a power-play goal when facing a two-man advantage, which led Sims to vent a little ire toward referee Derek Berkebile.
"We have to face five-on-three after five-on-three," Sims said. "I can understand it I think, but we had one for maybe 20 seconds and they had three or four for two or three minutes. Eventually, you're going to break down and give up a goal in that situation."
Overall, the Komets gave up only the one power-play goal in 12 chances against, while they were held scoreless in seven chances. At the start of the week, Sims said he wanted to focus more attention in practice on his penalty kill, and the Komets responded by giving up only two goals in 21 chances over the weekend.
"We're starting to understand what we want and we're starting to get used to playing aggressively," Sims said. "The big thing is our aggressiveness. When one guy goes, we all want to go. If you are going to be aggressive on the penalty kill, everybody has to react at the same time."
Fort Wayne eventually took the lead with 7:18 left in regulation when P.C. Drouin and David Hukalo forced a turnover with their forechecking. Hukalo passed to Drouin who shoved the puck between the legs of Wings goaltender Jason Tapp.
Komets goaltender Nick Boucher was the star of the night, making 35 saves to win his second game of the season.
"He was our best penalty killer and that was probably the best game I've seen him playin a long time," Sims said. "He was tremendous and had to come up big. He was outstanding."
Especially since the Komets' so-far prolific offense was held in check. The Komets came into the game after scoring 24 goals in the first three contests, but they were held to 26 shots on goal. Despite that, Sims said his team could easily have led 4-1 or 5-1 after two periods but missed several good scoring chances.
Last year the Komets got off to a 2-4 start in part because some of their veterans got off to a slow start individually. This year the 11 returning players are dominating play. Chaulk is tied for the IHL lead 11 points, linemate Konstantin Shafranov is fourth with 10 and defenseman Guy Dupuis and center Mathieu Curadeau have seven.
"I've been playing the heck out of them the last two weekends to try to get them into shape so they can play 30 minutes a night," Sims said. "This weekend I had to play them a ton, and I know they were tired tonight, but they are really carrying us."
Part of that is because of familiarity with each othe and what Sims wants them to do. Last year the Komets had only four returning players and it took a while for them all to adjust.
"These guys are coming in this year just like they played the last game last year," Sims said. "We've got the same guys on the power play except for (Luciano) Aquijno, and we've got the same guys on the penalty kill. The learning curve is so much shorter, and these vets know how to play together. It's given us jump start to this season.
"It hasn't been easy because we faced a home opener the first game against Port Huron and again tonight in Kalamazoo, plus we had the emotion of last night's game in Bloomington. There's a lot ot be said about what these guys accomplished this weekend."
The Komets come home to host Kalamazoo on Friday.