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Komets at South Carolina
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
As equipment manager Shawn Dundon applies the masking tape and then the black marker to the game puck to commemorate the moment, several of Colin Chaulk's teammates are shaking their heads in the locker room. The veteran Komets center and team captain scored his 1,000th career point during Wednesday night's 5-4 overtime win over Toledo.
``He didn't even tell anyone about it,'' left wing and linemate Matt Syroczynski said. ``We had to find about it in the pre-game notes.''
Typical Chaulk. It was also typical that the milestone point came off a pass instead of a goal, as he set up Brandon Marino, who buried a sharp-angle shot by bouncing it in off a defenseman's leg in the second period.
``It shows that he's been able to sustain himself at this level for a long time,'' Marino said. ``That's a testament to how hard he works. He's still passionate about the game, and it's great to see that. He knows where to be in the battle.''
What's really amazing is that Chaulk probably should not be playing. His shoulder injury is limiting the strength in his arm, and he's having trouble with a couple of fingers as he tries to hold a stick. He wants to shoot, but sometimes the signals don't go from the brain to his hands quickly enough to make things work.
Does the 15-year pro tell anyone about that? No. He's more concerned that the Komets are two spots out of playoff position with a month left in the schedule. He can't fix his shoulder, but Chaulk thinks he can fix the Komets, and, as he always says, who's playing at 100 percent this time of year, anyway? Odd thing is, he's all about making sure everyone else plays closer to 100 percent than they realize they are capable of.
``It's a testament of his will and his persistence, and that's what Chaulker is all about,'' Komets coach Al Sims said.
According to Hockeydb.com, Chaulk is the 70th minor league player to score 1,000 points in his career. More importantly to him, he's one of maybe a handful of players who have ever won five pro championships. Chaulk cares more about the two points the Komets won last night than the milestone he achieved because he wants a chance at a sixth title.
``This was a big win for us,'' he says, the fire still in his eyes and his belly. ``Maybe it can help us with some momentum to get going.''
The Komets ended a three-game home losing streak on J.M. Rizk's overtime goal off the post, and maybe the win can give Chaulk some momentum on his recovery, too.
``Each game, he's just going to improve, and if we can get on a little run here, you know the last 10 games he's going to be phenomenal,'' Syroczynski said.
This might be Chaulk's last year as a player. He is 36 years old, he has suffered a lot of hits and the injuries are adding up and not healing as quickly any more. Usually, those are just more challenges for him, like 3-1 or 2-0 playoff series deficits we've seen him lead the Komets back from. But he knows his body can go only so much more. He now has to figure things out a little sooner on the ice, skating into the holes as they open instead of forcing his way in to create one.
Until his body quits, Chaulk will continue pushing his teammates and himself, saying things like, ``Tired is for losers.'' Someday he'll be an amazing coach because of his head and his heart.
``What a remarkable career Colin has had,'' Komets General Manager David Franke said. ``That doesn't happen very often, but you know what, Colin is a special player and always has been. His offensive skills are widely known, but it's his defensive skills and leadership which make him an excellent all-around player.''
Maybe these will be Chaulk's last 14 games of his 10 years and 682 points as a Komet, maybe some smart owner will offer him a coaching job this summer and maybe his body will finally tell him it can't keep up with his heart.
That just means this last month will be special. If this is Chaulk's last season, he won't leave the game without first leaving every drop of sweat he's got on the ice. He'll also make sure the Komets don't have anything left, either.
The Komets are eight points out of a playoff spot with too little time. It should be impossible, but how many times have we seen Chaulk's leadership turn impossible into an opportunity?
The players believe in Chaulk, and there are still some milestones he wants his team to accomplish.