The Komets are one of the ECHL’s hottest teams heading into the playoffs: They are 8-2-1 in their past 11 games, and they hope they are peaking at just the right time.
“Hopefully. You’d like to think so, right?” said right wing Brandon Marino, who won the ECHL’s scoring title with 88 points, five more than Alaska’s Peter Sivak.
“And time will tell. It’s certainly better than going in to the playoffs 2-8-1. So we’re happy with the results we’ve had the last 11 games, and if it wasn’t for those 11 games, we’d be sitting on the outside again watching. We needed it.”
Last season, the Komets missed the playoffs, the only time they had done so since 2002. This year, at 36-24-12, they took the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
But now they have to face the only other team with an 8-2-1 record coming in – the defending-champion Reading Royals (46-22-2), who won the conference’s regular-season title.
The 2-3-2 formatted series opens in Reading, Pa., with games Thursday and Saturday before returning to Memorial Coliseum on April 24.
In the regular season, the Komets went 1-2-1 against Royals, who are led by Ryan Cruthers’ 16 goals and 56 points in 53 games and Yannick Tifu’s 19 goals and 48 points in 60 games.
The Royals have a pair of former Fort Wayne players: forward Josh Brittain, who has 14 goals and 26 points in 36 games, and defenseman Bryant Molle, who has 11 assists and 100 penalty minutes in 67 games.
“We’ve been on a roll here and playing great. I think we have a great chance. We need to tighten up some areas of our game, but it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Fort Wayne forward Aaron Clarke, after the Komets completed the regular season with a 4-3 overtime shootout victory over Toledo on Saturday night at the Coliseum.
The Komets are comfortable playing on the road, where they are 20-13-3. The Royals are 24-10-2 at Santander Arena.
While it’s been a tumultuous season for the Komets, who made a franchise-record 12 trades and have used a franchise-record nine goalies, they believe they’ve developed some moxie in the drive to the postseason.
“We’ve had to battle for the past month to get into the playoffs, and sometimes that’s a huge advantage and I think it will help us,” Clarke said.
In the regular season, Chris Auger led the Komets against the Royals with two goals and five points. Tifu had one goal and four points.
Goaltender Riley Gill was 2-0-0 against the Komets with a .0.96 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage. Neither of the Komets goalies, Ben Meisner nor Steven Summerhays, has played against Reading.