Komets looking to rebound after five-game road trip

Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma joined Cody Sol and Garrett Thompson for a night out to dinner with former teammate Kyle Thomas in Utah. (By Blake Sebring, of News-Sentinel.com)

Every hockey coach and player stresses the importance of road trips for providing adversity, helping a team adapt and building team chemistry.

Wouldn’t you think there must be something magical team members are doing on the road?

There’s not, really. It’s more about the circumstances of what they are going through. It’s the fact that they can’t rely on the home crowd to rally them, the referee is not going to listen to them and they aren’t going to get as many lucky bounces. They have to simply rely on themselves to pull together to pull through. They don’t have any choice.

But it is remarkable how different teams are after an early long road trip. The Komets just came off a five-game road stretch to Kalamazoo, Colorado, Utah (two games) and Toledo, two weeks week away from home, with a limited roster facing difficult opponents. They went 2-3 and are 5-5-1 heading into tonight’s home game against Kansas City.

Ask them what they did to build the bond, though, and it’s more interesting to hear what they did off the ice.

“Mostly it’s about dinners or hanging out at the bar watching hockey or football or whatever else is on,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “I wish I had more to give you. Some guys will go out for dinner with buddies from the other team.”

A lot of the options depend on how much time there is between games. Because they Komets had one day of travel between Colorado and Utah, there wasn’t a whole lot of chance to explore. Jamie Schaafsma, Cody Sol and Garrett Thompson went out to dinner with former Komets teammate Kyle Thomas the night before the first game in Utah. Then Thomas got called up to the American Hockey League the next afternoon.

“He made some pasta and chicken,” Thompson said. “We miss seeing him and playing with him. You make a lot of close friends playing hockey. Even with Toledo I’ve got some friends I went to school (Ferris State) with for two or three years. Once the game starts, everybody knows it’s serious and everybody is competitive.”

Goaltender Garret Bartus got to meet with a long-time friend and take a tour of the Utah highlights. If there’s time during a trip, the players always like to head to Park City, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The players also spent a lot of time playing cards, usually Poker, Euchre and Shnarps. That’s how they like to kill time in airports, on planes and during bus trips, when it doesn’t interfere with a pregame nap. Currently, they are also into playing online power against each other.

They’ll also play handball in a hotel hallway with a tennis ball or a racquetball.

Usually, a group of players will head out to dinner and a movie if there’s anything new that’s good playing. They’ve already seen or heard every movie that’s not just released while riding on the bus.

“I like to try new restaurants and go find places to eat,” defenseman Jason Binkley said. “Colorado is tough because there’s not a lot of places around

the rink. Because I played in Utah before, I went back to a sushi restaurant I really like. Saturday night after the game we went to In-N-Out Burger. You cannot go out West and not go to an In-N-Out Burger because you might not get the opportunity again this season. I think a lot of the guys tried it for the first time, too.”

So maybe it’s not what they do on the road but how they approach things. There are a lot fewer distractions so the players have nothing better to do than think about hockey and prepare for the game.