Chris Treft and Tyler Mason grew up in Fort Wayne, played hockey at McMillen Ice Rink and always dreamed about playing for the Komets. Practicing with the players each morning during informal offseason workouts is the perfect way to end a summer.
``It's a dream come true,'' said Mason, a junior right wing on IPFW's club hockey team.
He doesn't talk a lot, mostly because his buddy Treft gets wound up.
``I know it's just summer skates and stuff, but I've been watching the Komets since I was 8 months old,'' said Treft, a senior and also a right wing on IPFW's club team. ``It's pretty cool, and it's a way to get closer to the guys. In the last couple of years, it's turned from I've been in awe of the players to now they are kind of like my buddies.''
It's true. The Komets who are in town before training camp starts Sept. 29 needed some extra bodies to practice with at Lutheran Health SportsCenter, so they called Treft, Mason and Larkin Saalfrank, who backed up for a game last year as an emergency goaltender.
The Komets are generally larger, faster and have more skill, but the IPFW kids can play and, best of all, they hustle constantly. If you had an hour a day to work out with your heroes, wouldn't you bust some tail, too?
``They help us out and are always willing to talk to us and give us advice,'' Mason said. ``We look up to them, so it's nice to get to know them on a personal level.''
The Komets tell them when they make a nice play and when they make a bad play, but then they instruct the youngsters on how to correct the mistakes. The IPFW players are sucking every bit of knowledge off the ice they can and plan on sharing it with their regular teammates when the season starts Sept. 28. By then, hopefully Treft, Mason and Saalfrank will be a stride or two ahead of their teammates and can pull them along to a higher level.
``I look at this as the ultimate confidence boost to see that I can go out there and play with them and try to do the things they are doing,'' Treft said. ``They are all more talented than us, but they aren't jerks about it.''
The Komets are basically trying to break a sweat and break in some new equipment while getting their legs a little bit ready for training camp. There's only so much they can get out of an hour of skating per day. The IPFW guys are getting a lot more than that. They're getting an idea of how good they could become.
``They work hard, that's for sure,'' Komets center Brett Smith said. ``They definitely have some skill.''