FORT WAYNE – Nothing has dogged the Komets this season quite like their power play, which ranked 19th among 21 teams in the regular season with an efficiency of 14 percent.
If the Komets are to the defeat defending-champion Reading Royals, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the power play will have to improve.
We’ve just got to get pucks to the net and get guys in the paint, defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said. That’s what we’ve got to do.
Not only was the Royals’ power play more effective in the regular season at 16.5 percent, ninth best in the ECHL, but their penalty kill was difficult to solve. With 86.6 percent efficiency, it was second only to Greenville (87.6) and slightly better than Fort Wayne (86.3).
After missing the playoffs last year, the Komets closed the regular season with an 8-2-1 run to finish at 36-24-12, clinch the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and go to the postseason for the 11th time in 12 seasons.
The Royals also are on an 8-2-1 surge, finishing 46-22-4 with the help of two former Fort Wayne players, Josh Brittain and Bryant Molle.
The Komets went 1-2-1 against the Royals in the regular season, but the teams haven’t met since Dec. 21. All time, Fort Wayne is 1-4-1 against the Royals.
The good news is the Komets’ power play has shown signs of life lately, scoring on 4 of 14 opportunities over the past five games.
We’re finding a little bit of a groove on our power play and we’re going to continue to work on that, said right wing Brandon Marino, who won the ECHL’s scoring title with 88 points in 72 games.
Seven of Marino’s 30 goals came on power plays, and he had a team-best 21 points with the man advantage. Chris Auger was second with three goals and 11 points on power plays.
The most effective players on the point have been Jordon Southorn (six goals and 11 points) and Jace Coyle (four goals and eight points), though it’s unknown whether Coyle will be ready for Game 1 of the best-of-seven series because of an injury.
We’re getting more shots (lately), and the power play is something that’s going to be huge going into the playoffs, Marino said. Our special teams have to be above and beyond if we’re going to go anywhere. Our PK has been strong all year, but we need to get goals on the power play.
After starting the season 10-9-5 and making a franchise-record 12 trades – including dealing goal-scoring champion Mickey Lang – the Komets believe they can succeed.
We’ve got a good locker room, coach Gary Graham said. We’ve really started playing more consistently and playing better hockey, after we put ourselves in a hole the first few months. It’s started with good chemistry and the leaders have really done a good job. (Danis-Pepin, Marino, Auger and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock), those guys have done unbelievable jobs helping me out and making me a better coach, and that’s been a big part of our success.