FORT WAYNE – The Komets have found something special in the line of Brandon Marino, Chris Auger and Scott Fleming.
Combined, they have accounted for 37 goals and 52 assists this season. Total, the Komets have 85 goals and 150 assists in 28 games.
It’s hockey smarts. You can see it, said Komets coach Gary Graham, whose team (12-11-5) plays tonight at Evansville (16-7-5). They all know how to slow it down, and they have been together enough that they know where everybody is going to be going. They’re all shifty.
The production of Marino, who was voted MVP by his Komets teammates last season, along with Auger and Fleming, has been particularly significant over the past four games. That’s when Mickey Lang, the team’s leading goal scorer, and Mike Vaskivuo left the team seeking trades.
In the past four games, of which the Komets have won two, the line has six of the Komets’ 13 goals, along with 13 assists.
Marino now leads the ECHL with 37 points, including 14 goals.
All three have this dimension in the game where they can speed it up and slow it down, Graham said. It’s really tough to defend against in the open ice because the defenseman is back-peddling and trying to match speed. These guys delay, and all of a sudden, it creates a big buffer zone and gives them these big windows to make plays.
It’s not surprising that they’ve had such chemistry. Auger and Marino have been teammates for two seasons, though Auger missed most of last season with a knee injury. And Fleming and Auger were teammates in juniors.
We just read each other really well, Auger said. I played with Fleming for years before getting here. And Marino is just a guy who’s pretty easy to read on the ice. He’s going to make good plays at good times. You just have to find soft spots. We’ve been together most of the year and really never had a lull. We continually work and push the pace at all times of the game, not matter what the score is.
Fleming has 10 goals and 29 points. Auger has 13 goals and 23 points.
After a home-and-home series with Evansville, the Komets play host to the Kalamazoo Wings on Sunday. That will be the first trip to Memorial Coliseum this season for former Komets star Colin Chaulk, who is a Wings assistant coach.
The Komets have won two or more games consecutively only twice this season but believe they turned a corner with their 5-3 victory over Toledo on New Year’s Eve. The trade of goalie Cody Reichard to Utah for future considerations on Wednesday was their seventh trade in eight weeks.
Guys that want to be here are here now, Auger said. They are the right guys and they are buying in. I think that was the biggest thing at the start of the year – there were guys and some negativity. Now we have a strong leadership core. (New captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock) has really taken over the room and done a great job.