Ask rookie forward Matt Firman what's unique about him and he'll mention the way he can combine the power of a 6-foot-3, 205-pound body with his developing speed. He's hoping to become a dominant power forward who can fight for the puck in the corners and still provide the soft hands in front of the net.
But he's got a lot more to offer than that. Before his family moved from Ohio to New York when he was 10, Firman had never played hockey. Many people told his folks it was too late for him to catch up with kids his own age.
Except Firman never quits, and coaches love that about him. He was always fighting back to overcome the expectations of those who doubted him. He built himself into a solid college player at Colgate, fighting his way up the lines to score seven goals and 15 points in 39 games as a senior.
``Over my four years at Colgate, I learned some new stuff,'' he said before the Komets' training camp started last weekend. ``I went in real conservative and I didn't let my offensive game come through until about my third year. Then I picked up my offense. My game has improved a lot and that's something I'm continuing to build on. I have a lot to learn.''
Firman's a pretty good student, too. He majored in molecular biology with a minor in economics. He was in a class one day where the professor talked a little bit about molecular biology, and Firman thought that sounded interesting. So what do you do with a molecular biology degree?
``That's a good question,'' he says with a grin. ``I don't really know. There's no good answer for that. It's biology on a really small-scale level. It's stuff you can't see obviously, so it's not too interesting to many people, but I liked it when I was first introduced to it at Colgate. You spend a lot of time learning about stuff that nobody can see.''
Not usually, though if you are a college athlete who also has a part-time occupation in a weight room. Colgate doesn't hide many athletes in physical education majors. Somehow, Firman was able to keep up.
He's hoping the same work ethic applies in pro hockey. He's in Fort Wayne's camp because his agent told him it was a good place to play. Unlike most players, he didn't know a lot about the Komets until he got here. He doesn't know anyone else on the roster.
Maybe within two weeks everyone will know a lot more about him. He's showing in the training camp he can use his size to get into position in front of the yet, and he's smart enough to be sneaky fast getting to where the puck is going to be. It's almost as if he's studied the game in infinite detail.
Icing the puck
Forward Chris Auger is back in Fort Wayne from Norfolk but will not be skating for a few days as he deals with what David Franke says is a lower body injury. ... Stephon Thorne was back after missing Monday with an illness, and he looked sharp, finishing checks all over the ice. ... J.P. Chabot and Nicolas Thommen continue to battle in front of the net, and Thommen seems to be the only defenseman on the black team with the size to come close to handling Chabot. ... Cory Schneider scored off an assist from Thorne, and Linus Werneman off an assist from Matt Firman. ... The ice was better Monday and so was the overall play, which was more organized... Defenseman Jeremy Gates looked good using his size in front of his own net and leading a couple of rushes. ... The goaltending was very strong as Francois Lacerte played well for the second day in a row. ... Play was also a little chippier early in the scrimmage but settled down in the second half. ... Scott Kishel continues to impress on defense with his breakout passes. ... Brett Smith was playing both right wing and center and doing whatever the black team needed. ... Similarly, Kaleigh Schrock was playing center for the black team. ... It's been fun to watch Smith and Colin Chaulk go head-to-head on faceoffs. ... Gerry Festa made a very nice one-on-one save against Eric Giosa. ... Again, no one looked out of place Monday, but it's looking like the smaller forwards are going to have problems finding consistent offense. ... Though he's one of the smaller forwards, John Dunbar is always active and irritating to to go against. He's always harassing the defensemen. ... Defenseman Daniel Nycholat had another strong scrimmage, using his size well and always looking up ice to find an opening to take off for. ... Werneman continues to impress with his shot selection and quick release. ... Everyone had chances to shine Monday, but this weekend's exhibition games will determine everything on who makes the early-season roster.