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Florida at Komets
Face-off: 8 p.m.
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
All year long, the Fort Wayne Komets have been trying desperately to improve their defensive corps. Now, they hope they’ve gotten the help just in time.
The Komets got a huge boost last weekend with the return of Nick Schaus and Gabe Guentzel from Norfolk of the American Hockey League. They gave the Komets a legitimate No. 1 defensive pairing and power-play threat.
``I think they belong in the American League, but we’re happy to have them,’’ forward Thomas Beauregard said. ``Everyone is more confident with the way they move the puck, and the atmosphere is good. We know we can play really good hockey with them.’’
The duo also gave team morale a boost.
``Every time they are on the ice, we feel like we have a chance to score,’’ forward Kaleigh Schrock said. ``We have to remember that we have to play our system because that makes life a lot easier, and we’ve been doing a good job of that the last four or five games. We know what needs to be done.’’
At a time of the season when some players are sick and everyone is hurting, adding a few fresh bodies can change momentum.
``They just bring us stability on the back end with their experience,’’ rookie defenseman Ryan Hegarty said. ``They are both really good players and hopefully they are here for a while so we can get on a streak and get to the playoffs.’’
The Komet s are currently seven points out of the final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference.
``Any time you have guys coming down from the AHL, you feel like they are playing at a step ahead because it’s a lot quicker up there,’’ veteran center Brett Smith said. ``They are coming down to help us, and they are used to playing at a higher level.’’
The great thing about Schaus and Guentzel is that they are happy to be in Fort Wayne. Before being send here, Schaus had not played in two weeks with Norfolk, and Guentzel had missed a month with a concussion.
Both also enjoyed their time with the Komets earlier in the season. That hasn’t always been the case with some Norfolk assignments.
``I’m really enjoying this group of guys, and it’s fun to be back here,’’ said Schaus, who kept in contact with several Komets while he was in Norfolk. ``You go from being in a reserve role to an important player on a hockey club.’’
They are also used to being picked on by their new teammates.
``I definitely got a little bit of ribbing when I got back,’’ Guentzel said. ``The guys are great, and it’s very easy to become friendly with everybody.’’