There's a reason some hockey players have a letter on their chests.
The Fort Wayne Komets' assistant captains showed up big Saturday night. Kaleigh Schrocke fired up the Memorial Coliseum crowd with an early fight, Brett Smith scored the first goal and kept playing hard all game and Tyler Butler led the defensive effort as the Komets pounded the first-place Cincinnati Cyclones 7-2.
The Komets got off to a great start, leading 1-0 after the first period and out-shooting the Cyclones 15-6. There was no way they were going to lose another home game this weekend.
``I thought we came ready to play,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``The fights and getting to the crease, we wanted to get to the hard areas and win the battles in those areas. We just kept going to the crease and jamming things home. When you are playing against a goalie who is top 10 in the league, you've got to get those the dirty way, and that's the way we got them.''
Cincinnati goaltender Michael Houser was yanked after allowing three goals on 24 shots, but all three were front in close, with rookie Matt Firman scoring twice. Smith in particular was a superpest all night, starting altercations and finishing plays around the net.
``I'm just sick and tired of losing at home, losing in general, losing wherever and the inconsistency,'' he said. ``I was just trying to get out there and send a message and lead these guys by example. There were a lot of guys that did it, but I felt good, I was finishing hits and getting the emotion going. It was fun.''
It also took the pressure off Komets goaltender Charlie Effinger who made 34 saves and looked very solid in net.
``I think one of the things that helped tonight was getting in last night and getting into the flow of things,'' Effinger said. ``I only played one game in the month of January so being able to go in and get some timing down was big. It just helped to settle in a bit.
``What a great start of the game. I couldn't have asked for a better start, only facing five or six shots in the first period. I have to thank my teammates back. That was huge for me to get some confidence and get into the feel of the game.''
Cincinnati never did. Trailing 3-0 after the second period and 4-0 before finally beating Effinger.
``We took the game over and they chased it all night,'' Sims said. ``They could not catch up to us.''
The win tied the Komets for seventh place in the ECHL's Eastern Conference and pulled them within six points of the Cyclones with 25 games remaining. The Komets have also played one fewer game than the Cyclones.
Fort Wayne starts a five-game road trip on Wednesday in Colorado.
Asked if the Komets can build on this performance, Sims said, ``If we play the right way like we did tonight and play with the same enthusiasm and effort. We like that we are going for five on the road and hopefully we can make some hay and keep the pressure on Cincinnati for first place.''
Saturday KOMETS 7, CYCLONES 2
Scoring: 1. FW-Brett Smith (Brandon Marino, Matt Firman) 9:18.
Penalties: C-Dan Eves (high sticking) 1:36; C-Jeff Winchester (cross checking) 8:20; C-Anthony Luciani (fighting) 9:22; FW-Kaleigh Schrock (fighting) 9:22; FW-Daniel Maggio (interference) 12:30; C-David Pacan (tripping) 14:06; FW-Marino (charging) 16:24; C-Pacan (fighting) 18:14; FW-Smith (fighting) 18:14.
Scoring: 2. FW-Matt Firman (Maggio, Marino) 7:19; 3. FW-Firman (Smith, John Dunbar) 13:27.
Penalties: C-Josh McFadden (double roughing, misconduct) 13:27; FW-Smith (roughing, misconduct) 13:27; FW-Ryan Hegarty (slashing) 18:39.
Scoring: 4. FW-Matt Syroczynski (Schrock) 3:21; 5. C-Pacan (Trevor Lewis, Taylor Ellington) 6:04; 6. FW-Scott Kishel (Thomas Beauregard, Dunbar) 10:30; 7. FW-Schrock (unassisted) 11:11; 8. FW-Dunbar (Eric Giosa, Charlie Effinger) 16:57; 9. C-Ellington (Lewis) 17:40.
Penalties: FW-Maggio (holding) 8:09; FW-Bench (too many men) 14:47; FW-Firman (cross checking) 17:05.
Shots on goal: C/6-15-15--36; FW/15-9-13--37. Goaltenders: C/Michael Houser, FW/Charlie Effinger. Power-play opportunities: C/1 of 6; FW/1 of 4. Officials: Referee-Andrew Wilk; Linesmen: Francis Trempe, Patrick Richardson. Attendance: 7,484.