Komets notes: Ryan Culkin, Anthony Cortese have long history together

After a trade with Indy last week long-time friends and defensemen Anthony Cortese and Ryan Culkin have re-teamed with the Komets. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Sergeant Jeremy Keenan poses with a Komets jersey in 2016 while serving in Jordan. (Courtesy photo)
ECHL scoring leader Shawn Szydlowski. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

Last Wednesday morning, Indy Fuel defenseman Anthony Cortese got a text from lifelong friend Ryan Culkin informing him he had just been traded to Fort Wayne.

Cortese and Culkin grew up in the same Montreal neighborhood, and Culkin’s father was their coach. Starting at age 5, they played together all the way until they were about 15.

The odd thing? Before making the trade, the Komets had no idea the two knew each other or that they had been defensive partners most of their careers. That’s like getting a bonus out of the deal.

“It’s crazy how it all happened,” Culkin said after last weekend. “It was nice playing with him because I know his tendencies and he knows my tendencies so it’s cool we can play together again.”

Cortese’s family also visited Fort Wayne so Culkin got to see them as well.

“I feel like we have pretty good chemistry going,” Cortese said. “I train with him and go golfing in the summer.”

Cortese was so excited about being traded to a first-place team, he said it took him about four hours to pack up his apartment and drive to Fort Wayne.

Wow, that’s a number!

When he dressed over the weekend, new defenseman Cortese became the 32nd player to play for the Komets this season. That’s a remarkable number considering how many players usually run through an ECHL roster during a season.

Last season the Komets used 35 players and 47 two seasons ago. They have averaged about 45 players per season during their six years in the ECHL, and 32 is the fewest since they played 28 players to win the 2012 Central Hockey League title.

“Rather than moving guys out and then moving guys in to take their spot, we’ve tried our best to keep the roster intact and rotate guys on reserve and if guys get hurt they go on injured reserve,” Komets General Manager David Franke said. “It has really worked out well for us this year.”

Bakersfield Komets

The American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors are celebrating their 20th anniversary season, and it’s got a Fort Wayne flair to it.

The team held a “Mr. Condor” contest, and it included former Komets such as Sean Venedam, Kevin St. Pierre, Jon Mirasty, Paul Willett, Dan Currie and Guy Dupuis. Venedam and Willett advanced all the way to the final four. Now Venedam is taking on Glen Mears for the title. The winner will be announced this weekend.

Not-so lucky number

The Komets need to win 12 of their final 18 games to reach 50 wins for the season, but they may not really want to.

Toledo won 51 games last season, which is quite an accomplishment at any level, but it rarely translates into ECHL playoff success. Missouri did it two years ago and three years ago Toledo became the first ECHL team since Cincinnati and Texas in 2007-08 to win 50 games in a season. Only 13 teams have done it during the ECHL’s 29-year history, but what’s odd is that only two of those teams went on to win the playoff championship, and only three made the finals. Louisiana set the league record with 56 wins in 2003-04 but did not make the finals.

Maybe if Colorado, Florida, Toledo and Fort Wayne all win 50 games, the problem will solve itself.

The last time the Komets won 50 games was in 2009-10 when they won the last International Hockey League title.

Lonely at the top

From 1991 to 2013, the Fort Wayne Komets never had a league scoring leader, but Shawn Szydlowski has a chance to be the second member of the Komets in five years to lead the ECHL in scoring. Brandon Marino led the league that season with 88 points. Lonnie Loach scored 131 points in 1990-91 to lead the old IHL.

J.C. Ruid in 2006-07 and Luciano Aquino in 2007-08 both finished second.

Allen’s Chad Costello led the ECHL in scoring the last three seasons before playing this year in Germany, and now Szydlowski leads the league with 65 points.

Szydlowski also scored his 100th regular-season goal as a Komet during Friday’s win over Greenville.

Besides leading the ECHL in scoring, Szydlowski continues advancing up the rankings on the Komets’ all-time lists. With 280 games (including playoffs), he needs nine more games to reach No. 50 all-time, but his 122 goals are 29th all-time, his 169 assists are 32nd and his 290 points are tied with Dustin Virag for 29th all-time. He passed Scott Gruhl and Bob Lakso on that list last week.

Heading out

Though he lives in Pittsburgh, Jeremy Keenan became a Komets fan four years ago when his sister Jodie Dell who lives here.

“I fell in love with the team and have been to several games despite the long drive,” he said.

His drive is about to get a lot longer, as Keenan is being dispatched with his Pennsylvania National Guard unit where he’s a sergeant. What’s interesting about his story is that he posted a picture of himself on Facebook this week holding up a Komets jersey… which he received while serving in Jordan in 2016. He’s taking his Komets gear with him this time, though he can’t say where.

The last game he saw in Fort Wayne was last season’s finale against Quad City. He said his favorite player is either Mason Baptista or Garrett Thompson.

We’ll be thinking about you, Jeremy.

Icing the puck

With Jamie Schaafsma and Cody Sol out of the lineup with injuries, the Komets are using Curtis Leonard and Garrett Thompson as alternate captains… The No. 1 reason why some players are unable to attend next weekend’s championship team reunion and hall of fame weekend? They are coaching. It’s amazing how many former players have strong careers going behind the bench… Unofficial Komets audio historian Dave Longsworth game up with this one: During their last 19 games (going 17-1-1), the Komets have played 59 periods including an overtime and a shootout, and they are 32-10-17 during those periods. They are 3-7-9 during the first period and 13-1-5 during the third periods, but they were an amazing 15-0-3 during the second periods before they were outscored 2-1 on Tuesday night… Under coach Gary Graham, the Komets usually do pretty well on second-half road trips of four games or more. They were 2-3 last year, 4-2-1 two years ago, 4-0-1 in 2014-15 and 3-1 in 2013-14… The ECHL’s 30th anniversary video on “The Early Years” is excellent and deserves a watch… The doors will open at 3:30 p.m. for the March 11 game so fans can some early to see the Stanley Cup.