Big line produces, helps Komets to wins Fort Wayne pulls off another comeback against Wheeling.
There’s more to a good line combination than simply putting three talented players on the ice together.
All weekend long, the Fort Wayne Komets’ line of Shawn Szydlowski, Trevor Cheek and Gabriel Desjardins seemed to have strong scoring chances on every shift, accounting for nine goals over three games. Neither the Indy, Wichita or Wheeling defenses could handle their speed, stickhandling and willingness to go to the net.
The trio combined for three goals during Sunday’s 4-3 win over a good Wheeling team in one of the most entertaining games of the season before 7,261 happy Memorial Coliseum fans. Remarkably, it’s the ninth time this season and sixth time in February that the Komets have rallied from at least a two-goal deficit to earn a point and the sixth time they’ve come all the way back to win.
That line was the catalyst, and Desjardins was the catalyst of the line.
“You have two guys who are really known for scoring in Cheeker and Szyd, but Desi he’s the gopher,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “He’s the first guy in on the forecheck, the guy who creates the loose puck and does a great job of setting up a puck for retrieval in the offensive zone. He amplifies that line. I think Desi is a critical component to that line even though Cheek and Szyd, you might thing of them more for the goal scoring. He’s really the catalyst and creates those loose pucks and the playmakers can evolve off of that.”
It was only a few weeks ago that the Komets were struggling to score more than two goals a game, but then Szydlowski came back from the American Hockey League, allowing Graham the opportunity to experiment with his lines to find new chemistry. He liked the speed of all three players and their ability together to put more pressure on opposing defenses.
“Any time you are playing like guys like that who can skate, and I feel like I’m a good skater, it’s fun to take advantage of that and put D back on their heals,” Cheek said.
All three players also have played extensively in the AHL so moving at a higher level of intensity feels natural.
With seven goals and eight points over his last three games, Cheek has been particularly hot. Desjardins has three goals and 11 points over his last six games. Ironically, Szydlowski was the Komets’ leading scorer when he was called up to the AHL in mid-January, but he’s got only one goal in four games back, but he has six points overall.
“We have a very dynamic line with three different kind of players,” Szydlowski said. “Desi is one of the hardest workers in the league and he can fly, too. Cheeker has such a long stride, in a straight line when he takes off no one can keep up with the exception maybe of Kyle Thomas. Since they both have great shots it gives me a little room to set them up, and because they are shooting so well it gives me a little bit of room, too.”
Desjardins said one key is that Cheek and Szydlowski don’t leave all the dirty work to him. They dig pucks out of corners and go to the front of the net for deflections and rebounds as much as he does.
With a 11-2-3 mark over their last 16 games, the Komets have been playing very well, particularly at home where they are 8-0-1 of late. The only problem is they haven’t been able to gain ground on Central Division-leading Toledo which still leads Fort Wayne by eight points. The Komets have been able to open a nine-point lead on third-place Quad City.
Maybe more important than the record has been the way the Komets played this weekend.
“After Wednesday’s game, our record was very deceiving,” Graham said. “We didn’t have a regulation loss over the last five games and our record was 6-1-3. I think most teams would be pretty happy with it, but I was not. I thought even when we were winning games, we could have been dominating games. I challenged the group on Thursday, why don’t we just start beating up teams bad. We don’t we just start dominating. Why do we gotta keep coming from behind, why do we keep playing all these tight games? When’s the last time we beat a team by three or four goals… I thought the guys took the message to heart and they ran with it.”
They get five days off before rematches with Wheeling on Saturday and Sunday. <br>
<i> For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring. </i><br>
<center> Up next </center><br>
Faceoff: Wheeling at Komets, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM