The Fort Wayne Komets are starting to put together a hot streak.
After getting pounded by Toledo 9-4 on New Year's Eve, the Komets came back to win three of the next four games, culminating with Sunday's 3-2 win over Orlando before 6,758 Memorial Coliseum fans.
The Komets first beat Southern Division leading Gwinnett, then split games with North Division leading Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday before cooling off Orlando which had won four of its last five games. The Komets out-shot all four teams.
``I think you're just seeing a better defensive hockey team from the Komets the last three, four games than you have seen the rest of the year, especially at home,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``Our young defensemen are maturing and gaining confidence. We're 11-1-1 in one-goal games. It's pretty impressive when you can win one-goal games like that.
``Teams are having trouble generating offense through the neutral zone against us, and before this week they were flying through the neutral zone against us. Guys have bought in and they see that it's paying dividends and working.''
The Komets are concentrating on defense first, forcing teams to fight their way out of their own zone by controlling the puck and then being aggressive with their neutral zone trap. They proved to themselves that the system can work even against faster, possibly more-talented teams.
``Guys are getting used to the systems and it's starting to click now,'' rookie defenseman Scott Kishel said. ``Everybody knows it and it's just a matter of us coming mentally ready to play and doing it. I think the only reason we lose is if we beat ourselves and if we don't show up ready to play. If we come ready to play and use the system, it works.''
Maybe one sequence of third-period plays show how focused the Komets are right now. First, hulking forward Garrett Klotz blocked a shot at the blue line near the Komets bench, which to a man all stood to cheer him for the play. Then, Orlando's Mike Liambas belted Komets defenseman Daniel Maggio in the head with an elbow, but no penalty was called.
Along with Komets forward Kaleigh Schrock, Klotz chased Liambas up ice. When the Solar Bears passed Liambas the puck, Schrock and Klotz combined to deck him. Schrock was called for charging on the play, but the Komets were standing up for each other and playing together as a team.
Though Orlando scored on the ensuing power play, the Komets held the Solar Bears to only two shots on goal over the last eight minutes of play.
``I thought we had not only a real good game but a real good weekend,'' Klotz said. ``We did well all-around.''
They were doing some of the things that had been missing at home, blocking shots, talking a lot more and standing up for each other, the kind of things Fort Wayne fans have been expecting. Though the Komets are only 9-10 at home so far, Friday and Sunday may have been their most-consistent efforts of the season at home
``You look at our last four games, for the first time all year you can say we've put together four games in a row where we played pretty well and had a chance to win each game,'' Schrock said. ``Guys are all starting to believe.''