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Tailing the Komets: Observations on Game 1

Tyson Fawcett scores hat trick again in Fort Wayne

Tyson Fawcett scores his second goal of the game on a first-period breakaway Saturday night. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel)

Wow, does Tyson Fawcett ever love playing in Fort Wayne!

Fawcett scored a hat trick in the Komets’ 4-2 win over Toledo on Saturday night before 10,089 Memorial Coliseum fans. Including the previous games he played here against the Komets, that’s a ridiculous seven goals and eight points in four games in The Jungle.

“I thought our team just played well and my teammates made me a better player,” Fawcett said. “Hopefully we can do keep it going and do it again next game.”

In the past, the player of the game got a green army helmet to wear in the post-game celebration, but tonight Fawcett was wearing an spaceman’s helmet that Justin Hodgman or Jamie Schaafsma probably stole from their son.

Maybe Fawcett’s prettiest goal came in late in the first period on a breakaway where he took a Dan Maggio pass from deep inside the Fort Wayne zone at the Toledo blue line.

“He hit me right in stride and all I had to do was finish it,” Fawcett said. “I couldn’t screw it up and not get him the apple (an assist).”

Sol looks sharp

In his first regular-season game wearing an A as alternate captain, defenseman Cody Sol assisted on the Komets’ first two goals and looked exceptional. He also didn’t get any penalties.

“He made some really good reads, and played under control which I really like,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “Wearing that letter, he’s going to have to do that more this year. The more he’s on the penalty kill for us and out of the box, the better we are. When he’s playing under control and not letting his emotion take him out of the play, he’s a heck of a defenseman and he had a heck of a game.”

Sol said a lot of it has to do with the confidence he earned last season when he played so well with the Komets. He also lost 10 pounds over the summer to add some more quickness.

“You have to adapt to the game,” he said. “You see all those tough guys leaving the game because they can’t find a job, so I got a little slimmer. You have to be fast.”

Sol and Jason Binkley were plus-3.

Changing the defense

Graham talked a lot over the summer about wanting to make the Komets’ defense more mobile. That would help the forwards create offense, but also help the team’s defense. If they can move the puck quicker, it also takes pressure off them from opposing forwards.

“We had a lot of left-shot defensemen last year, and that made it hard,” Graham said. “A lot of guys were playing their off-side. You’re not on your forehand and you could see it affected us last year against harder forechecking teams. This year with three rightes and three lefties and a healthy Ryan Lowney ready to step in whenever, we have some balance with our D-core.”

Amazing transition

After watching him play Saturday night, it’s difficult to imagine it’s been almost five years since Dan Maggio has played a regular shift on defense. When he moved up to the American Hockey League, Maggio was moved to forward mostly because teams used him as a tough guy. It’s easier for a team to adjust to a forward sitting out five-minute majors for fighting than trying to do it with five remaining defensemen.

“He’s just going to get better,” Graham said. “When he came to us (Tuesday), he had been off the ice for three or four days so (he’s only had) a couple of skates. He’s still getting back into the groove. I think with another week of practice and video, I expect him to get better.”

Maggio still looked very good with one shot, an assist on Fawcett’s breakaway and a plus-1 rating. He was physical, fast and aggressive to cut off forwards cutting into the zone.

Icing the puck

The Komets held the Walleye scoreless in four power-play attempts, something they could never seem to do over the last three seasons… Former Komets goaltender Pat Nagle came in early in the second period and stopped 15 of 16 Fort Wayne shots. He gave his team a chance to win… It’s amazing how fast both teams are. The Komets won because they did a better job in transition and were able to keep more pressure on Walleye rookie goaltender Matej Machovsky. Fort Wayne was able to hold possession in the Toledo zone a few times during the first period and then capitalize… Justin Hodgman was in mid-season form talking to referee Lucas Martin… The Komets are now 42-18-6 all-time in home-openers. They are 3-2-1 against teams from Toledo. Their first game ever was played against the Toledo Mercurys on Oct. 25, 1952… The opening-night forward lines were Justin Hodgman-Tyson Fawcett-Garrett Thompson; Dennis Kravchenko-Jamie Schaafsma-Shawn Szydlowski; Gabriel Desjardins-Marco Roy-Ralph Cuddemi with Mason Baptista as the 10th forward. The defensive pairings were Bobby Shea-Ryan Culkin; Cody Sol-Jason Binkley; Daniel Maggio-Curtis Leonard… The crowd of 10,089 was the Komets’ first over 10,000 since Feb. 16, 2013 and their first on opening night since Oct. 12, 2012.

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