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K's re-sign 3 stars, rookie

The Komets of next season are going to look a lot like the championship Komets of last season.

Today, the Komets finalized the re-signings of forwards Chris Auger and Jean-Michel Rizk, as well as defenseman Brent Henley, giving them seven players who hoisted the President's Cup.

The Komets' roster now has 13 players for the upcoming season, including rookie forward Matt Firman, 23, who was also signed Wednesday after a four-year career at Colgate University, in which he totaled 13 goals and 32 points in 149 games.

Auger, 24, who was selected as the Komets' Rookie of the Year, tallied 28 goals and 59 points in 57 games, and he added 10 goals and 22 points in 18 games.

"As the summer progressed and I had my options on the table, I felt my heart was still in Fort Wayne and I would have a great opportunity to move forward with my career and maybe move up to the American Hockey League," Auger said.

Rizk, 26, had 20 goals and 31 points in 55 regular-season games, then added seven goals and 14 points in 18 playoff games.

Henley, 31, had three goals, 14 points and 201 penalty minutes in 60 regular-season games, and one goal, three points and 28 penalty minutes in 15 postseason games. The co-winner of the Komets' Defenseman of the Year award, along with Frankie DeAngelis, he had a team-leading rating of plus-29.

Henley fills the final of four veteran spots for the Komets – goaltenders are exempt – along with forwards Colin Chaulk and Brett Smith, and defenseman Tyler Butler. Henley is also the Komets' player with the most experience in the ECHL; he has skated games in that league in all or parts of eight seasons with eight different teams.

With the returning players, including Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, and the additions of players like CHL MVP Brandon Marino and his former teammate from Quad City, Eric Giosa, the Komets have clearly prioritized offense even after averaging 3.45 goals per game, third most in the CHL.

"Obviously, they've taken a little bit different approach from the style of team we had last year," Auger said. "We struggled to score goals in certain stretches last season and … they're trying to bring a little more offense to the game and adapt to the style of play the ECHL plays. It's exciting."

Will there be enough ice time to go around for all these established forwards?

"The way I look at it is they had to replace three players out of the so-called top six (Bobby Chaumont, Playoff MVP Mike Vaskivuo and Leo Thomas), and I believe there will be plenty of ice time to go around for everybody," Auger said. "There were some holes that need to be filled and a lot of minutes that needed to be replaced. You have to remember there are only 10 forwards on the team."

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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