FORT WAYNE – A year ago, Scott Fleming was out of hockey, a head injury having forced him into retirement.
A couple of weeks ago, though, he was a stones throw from the NHL.
Fleming, who has spent the bulk of his return-to-hockey season with the Komets, played four games with the Worcester Sharks between Jan. 29 and Feb. 9 in the American Hockey League, which is one step below the NHL.
It was a good experience, said Fleming, a center whose Komets play host to the Kalamazoo Wings today at Memorial Coliseum. It was nice to get up there and play and try to absorb as much as I could. It was nice to go up there and realize I could play at that level.
With Worcester, Fleming, 26, had two assists, a plus-1 rating and eight shots, all while playing on the fourth line. In the ECHL, teams play with three forward lines.
Its a little bit faster in the AHL, but its really a different style having the four forward lines, Fleming said. I was mainly on the fourth and tried to keep my game simple and play the right way.
In 43 games with the Komets, Fleming has 12 goals and 35 points, which ranks ninth among ECHL rookies.
The Komets (25-16-11) are on a 10-3-3 surge that has put them two points back of Kalamazoo (29-17-5) for the division lead and nine behind South Carolina (33-15-4) for the conference lead. The top eight teams in the conference will make the playoffs. The Komets have 20 games left.
These kind of crucial games were far away from Fleming when he was out of hockey for almost two years. And when he was up in the AHL, he tried not to let himself get amazed at how far hes come and how fast he got there.
Youve just got to play hockey, he said. Thats what weve all been doing, and I had to realize its just another game and not overthink it. Thats why they called me up, to do what I do, and I had to stick to it.
And what did he learn in his time with Worcester?
I just have to continue to have a good work ethic, maybe do a little bit more in practice and after practice, he said. The farther you go up, things are a little more professional and along those lines. You take things away here and there. It was a nice experience, and its nice to come back refreshed.
Notes: Tonight and Friday the Komets will wear pink jerseys to promote awareness for early detection and treatment of breast cancer. The jerseys will be silently auctioned through the second intermission of Fridays game. Players wives and significant others will sell autographed pucks for $15 to benefit the cause.
When the Komets pink the rink, were reminded that this disease touches all of us – and that we can all take part in ending it, said Catherine Hill, executive director of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.
The Komets and the Vera Bradley Foundation raised more than $30,000 in the first two years of their partnership. Fort Waynes Ben Meisner was selected as ECHL Goaltender of the Week. He was 2-0-0 with a 1.92 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage at Florida.