FORT WAYNE — There’s nothing about what Stephon Thorne does that can be characterized as pretty.
He hits hard. He insults opponents. He scores, sure, but usually just scrappy goals that rile opposing goalies and garner chuckles from the Komets’ bench.
Thorne is a go-hard-all-the-time hockey player, just the sort fans at Memorial Coliseum love.
“I don’t have too many particular goals that I’ve set for myself for this season,” said Thorne, a 22-year-old native of Mississauga, Ontario. “I just know if I keep playing the way I have been, then I’ll have success. That means just working hard all the time. That’ll make things happen for me.”
Plenty happened for Thorne in his rookie season. He had 11 goals, 32 points and 90 penalty minutes in 64 regular-season games and was selected as the team’s Most Improved Player.
In the playoffs, he had one goal, six points and 18 penalty minutes in 18 playoff games, when the Komets won the CHL’s President’s Cup. Thorne’s line, with Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Jean-Michel Rizk, also established itself as a nightmare for opposing star players.
“Thorne is tough to play against,” said high-scoring forward Eric Giosa, who had one goal, five points and a minus-3 rating in eight games against the Komets last season, when he was with Quad City and defended almost exclusively by Thorne’s line.
Thorne had four goals, eight points and a plus-4 rating in nine games against Quad City. By comparison, the CHL’s MVP, Brandon Marino, now a teammate with the Komets, had one fewer goal than Thorne in head-to-head games.
“Thorne is a scrappy guy,” Giosa said. “He’s always banging bodies and always finishing his checks, chirping in the back of your ear. That’s a guy you love to have on your team. He’s an energy guy who will put pucks in the back of the net. And he’s a great guy off the ice.”
Thorne was a captain in his last season in juniors – 2010-11 – with Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League. But the Komets have so many established leaders – Colin Chaulk, Brett Smith, Schrock, Brent Henley, Tyler Butler – that he has tried to learn from them rather than inject his own personality too much.
“I’m still going to listen to the older guys. They are the captains,” he said. “I’ve been a captain in juniors, yes, but juniors and pros are two different things. I know it. You’ve got to listen to the older guys, learn from their experiences, and then maybe one day I can be a captain too.”
Thorne certainly would have drawn interest from ECHL teams, even if the Komets hadn’t moved to the league last summer, but he relished the chance to return to Fort Wayne and play alongside Schrock and Rizk.
With his speed, tenacity and youth, he could get noticed by higher-level teams, even though he’s only 6 feet, 180 pounds.
“(Going to the ECHL) is a big step for the whole team and myself,” Thorne said. “I’m just lucky I got to play here last year and win a championship here and can now just move up with the boys.”
Everyone is expecting his scoring to improve and for him to continue shutting down opposing stars when the Komets open the ECHL season tonight at Memorial Coliseum against the Kalamazoo Wings.
“I feel like I’ve got a little more confidence in myself to make plays. I’ve got to play simple also and stick to my game. That’s how I’ve always been,” he said.