The hardest part of being a Fort Wayne Komets fan this season is trying to relax after the games.
Through the first few weeks of the season, the Komets were great at charging out to early leads and then giving them up late before losing in shootouts or overtime.
Through the last few weeks of the season, they've charged out to early leads and then given them up late, but they've kept the balance on their skates long enough to persevere in overtime.
``Heart-attack kids,'' Komets coach Gary Graham calls them.
Kardiac Komets might be more apt, but the kids have definitely been entertaining. They've also been improving. The type of games they lost early are the replicas of games they are somehow winning now, making the most of second chances.
``It's sticking to what we're taught to do,'' captain Nick Tuzzolino said. ``Look at our record and we've got four losses, but it could be one or two. Right now we're all working hard and buying in and it's fun.''
Fun may not be the most accurate word for the fans who aren't sure what to expect except tension. Almost every game has gone to the last minute of regulation. It's easy to wonder how good the Komets could be if they can ever settle down.
``I think it just comes down to meshing,'' winger Mike Vaskivuo said. ``Some teams take a little longer than others. We're still trying to find our identity. We're sticking together.''
Part of that has been the additions to the lineup. Bobby Hughes came off injured reserve and Kenton Miller and Phil Mangan were acquired to give the Komets three centers who have settled down the faceoffs and allowed the forwards to play their positions. Defenseman William Lacasse was called up from Bloomington and played well over the weekend, and rookie goaltender Andrey Makarov has given everyone confidence.
The Komets also acquired left wing Brett Lyon from Bakersfield on Sunday in a trade for cash.
Those aren't huge, impact moves, but each player has earned regular playing time with steady play. All of them are just doing their jobs.
Twice over the weekend, the Komets blew late leads at home only to win in overtime. They were crushed Saturday night in the third period against Greenville, getting outshot 21-7, but as soon as overtime started defenseman Rob Kwiet got the puck down low to Brandon Marino, and he and Mickey Lang kept poking at it until Lang slapped it behind Road Warriors goaltender Connor Knapp. They simply outworked the defense until the puck slid into the net.
``We have still given up some leads, but we're finding a way to win,'' Marino said. ``Now we have to find a way to win in regulation.''
They make it sound so simple, but actually that's what Graham is preaching. They are never out of it as long as the Komets keep things simple and do what they are supposed to. Just relax and play hard.
``You keep going through all these games early in the season, and I think this is going to make us stronger as a team,'' Graham said. ``We have to huddle in the trenches and figure it out. We're all young, myself included, and I'm trying to become better each and every game just like the team is.''
Can they keep it up? Maybe not with nail-biters every night, but they've certain been willing to work overtime to get better.