KOMETS NOTES: The Silent Six have been rocks on the blue line

Komets defensemen Jason Binkley, left, and Cody Sol clear the front of the net to protect goaltender Garrett Bartus during Sunday's game against Allen. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

A few weeks ago, a Komets press release rightly pointed out how odd it was that they had used only two goaltenders this season, Michael Houser and Garrett Bartus, something that hadn’t happened since 2010-11 when Nick Boucher and Kevin Reiter manned the nets the entire season.

(Since the release, the Komets used Sean Maguire in two games, and he has moved on to play with Utah.)

But maybe something even more interesting has been overlooked. The Komets have used basically six defensemen to this point as well, Jason Binkley, Ryan Culkin, Curtis Leonard, Ryan Lowney, Bobby Shea and Cody Sol. (Jalen Smereck played two games and Daniel Maggio has played about five games on the blue line).

And those six players have been outstanding as five of the six are plus-10 or above on plus-minus, something unheard of at the halfway point of a season. The sixth defenseman, Shea, has had the best plus-minus on the team over the last month and a half and is plus-6 overall. Defensively, they have helped the Komets limit opponents to under 30 shots per game.

Even better, all six have made major offensive contributions as the Komets have regained their spot as the ECHL’s top-scoring team. Each has scored at least 10 points, and they’ve scored a combined 27 goals.

This kind of consistency is remarkable, especially considering the minor injuries all defensemen pick up over the season. This group just continues to power through them, realizing the team doesn’t have any extra defensemen to put into the lineup to give them some rest.

Call them the Silent Six because most fans never notice defenseman unless they are making a mistake that leads directly to a goal.

Hurrah, for fidget spinners!

For a few minutes Saturday night, the Komets crowd was thought to be 10,749, which would have been the biggest home crowd in the team’s 66-year history.

The excitement (yep, I’m a nerd) quickly changed when it was announced the Komets had their second sellout of the season at 10,479. Thank you, fidget spinners!

Well, single-game attendance is something that can be added to the Komets’ “never-to-be-broken” list of records. The official mark is 10,593 for the Colonial Cup-clinching win over Quad City on May 4, 2003. The best attendance for a regular-season game was 10,525 for a game against Adirondack on April 3, 2005.

The reason the attendance mark will never be broken — unless there’s another unlikely Memorial Coliseum expansion — is that the Komets decline to sell certain tickets around the press box in the south side upper deck because they are obstructed view seats. There are also no standing-room-only tickets.

If you were also wondering, the largest road crowds the Komets have ever played in front of were 20,182 on Dec. 16 and 17, 1994 at the Palace of Auburn Hills against the Detroit Vipers. The Komets have played in front of road crowds of 14,000 or more 15 times, posting a 6-9 record. Six of those crowds came from games in Detroit, five in Cleveland and one each in Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Milwaukee. The Komets are also 22-32-9 all-time when playing against crowds of 10,000 or more on the road.

Since Memorial Coliseum was renovated in 2002, the Komets are 36-7-5 when playing before crowds of 10,000 fans or more at home. They are also 57-11-9 performing before crowds of over 9,000 fans and 109-23-16 with crowds larger than the previous coliseum capacity of 8,003.

The last time the Komets had two sellouts in the same season was during their 2011-12 Central Hockey League title year. The last time they had more than two sellouts in a season was during 2009-10 when they had five.

Good problem

With the return of Trevor Cheek and Marc-Olivier Roy from American Hockey League call-ups, the Komets are overloaded up front with extra bodies. That allowed them to rest Garrett Thompson and Zac Larraza during Sunday’s game and insert Logan Nelson and Louick into the lineup.

“We have a lot of forwards around here, and over the next two weeks you’re going to start to see (Justin) Hodgman getting fully healthy and wanting to get a sniff back in the lineup and (Taylor) Crunker coming off IR, too,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “There’s going to be a lot of competition, and the best way to look at it is healthy competition makes us better.”

Interesting take

If there’s anyone on a team who sometimes has a gripe with the coach, it’s the backup goaltender. That’s not the case with Garrett Bartus in regards to Graham.

“He’s always been great with the goalies,” Bartus said. “We’ll talk every week, and he’ll explain what he’s thinking. He lets you know who’s playing, and he’s got an open door and he’s always communicating with us. I really respect him. He’s always been very open and upfront with what’s going on with me, and I respect him for that.”

It beats a day job

After he was released from the Komets training camp, rookie goaltender Alex Sakelopolous has bounced all over the ECHL this season. He started the year with Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League where he has played one game. Since then he has signed with Quad City, Indy, Jacksonville, Cincinnati and last week Worcester. So far, he has played in one ECHL game with Quad City and was released earlier this week by Worcester. After all that, you hope he gets a chance to stick somewhere.

Going to get tougher

According to mathematics sports guru Joe Stanford of the weekly ECHL Stanford Ratings, the Komets’ second-half schedule is going to be more challenging than the first half. In layman’s terms, the Komets had the easier first-half schedule followed by Cincinnati and then Toledo. In the second half, the Walleye have the easier trek followed by the Komets and then Cincinnati.

Stanford basically inputs the scores of every game into his computer and gives teams points based on home and road wins. His reading on the Fort Wayne schedule makes sense considering the Komets have extended road trips to the East Coast and a five-game trip to Wichita, Kansas City, Quad City and Kalamazoo both coming up in March. They also have two more games in Wheeling which is always a tough road trip.

the Komets play 10 road games in March, the most in team history. The previous record of nine was set several times, most recently in 1962.

Icing the puck

The Komets have only four home games during January, which is one more than the franchise record for fewest in a month, three games in March 1998…

… Over their last six years in ECHL, Komets are 8-11-2 after scoring six or more goals in a game. They are 2-4 this season… Toledo has already had 10 players this season who have played in the AHL. The Komets have six.

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