For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.
ECHL Playoffs quarterfinals
Reading at Komets
(series tied 1-1)
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
Playoff hockey games are all about passion, excitement, energy and drama.
And when they are over, it's almost impossible for fans -- and especially kids on school nights -- to settle down to sleep. Now, imagine how hard it is for a player who has been jacked up on caffeine and adrenalin for three hours to get to sleep.
"It's pretty hard,'' Komets center Scott Fleming said. "You're not going to have a great sleep, so you just have to take it for what it is. It's always hard falling asleep after any game, but after a playoff game you are a little more wired than normal. You just try to put a movie on and hopefully fall asleep to that.''
Coming down from all the excitement is something fans and players have in common after playoff games. Players may not have to get up in time to be at work by 8 a.m. the next morning, but they usually do have to be at the rink for practice by 9 a.m.
"It always takes me time to unwind,'' Komets captain Kaleigh Schrock said. "If I can get to bed by 2 or 3, that's normal for me. Some guys are extremely tired after game in the playoffs and can just go right to sleep, but not many of them. You are amped up, especially after a win. It's hard on your body and you are excited after a game.''
After Game 1 of the Komets' playoff series with Reading, the team went out to eat and then rode the bus back to the hotel at about 1 a.m. Practice wasn't until 12:30 p.m. the next day, so that extra time helped. After Game 2, the Komets all piled onto the bus for the nine-hour ride home to get ready for Thursday's Game 3. If they aren't spending time looking back at that night's game, they are usually looking ahead to the next one.
"You enjoy the victory or mourn the defeat but within an hour and a half or so after you sit down and get something to eat, you have to start looking ahead,'' Komets General Manager David Franke said. "The big thing is if you win a game you can't go out and celebrate like you've won the Stanley Cup. You are happy with the victory and you are content, but then you have start looking ahead to prepare for the next game.''
That's hard to do when your body is still feeling the effects of the game you just got done playing. After Shawn Szydlowski scored with 8.1 seconds left to win Game 1, there was no way anyone in the locker room was able to calm down for at least three hours. It helped that they all got to talk things out at a meal, but even eating that late doesn't help falling asleep.
Once they get back to wherever their home base is after a game, the players may talk to a roommate, meet in the bar for a beverage, watch a movie, or play cards or even Candy Crush. There are no easy ways to relax after the intensity required by playoff hockey.
"You're so fired up thinking about the game a little bit,'' forward Matt Carter said. "It calms you down knowing that you got the first one, but there's no real secret. Playoffs are just a grind. Personally, sleeping on the bus right now is better for me than sleeping at home for some reason.''
That's also why pregame naps are so important to most players. Along with increased hydration, their bodies need more time to recover, and that will get even more difficult as a team progresses through one or two rounds. Sometimes it takes players a month after the season to fully recover from all the bumps and bruises.
"The winding-down process is the same for a coach as it is for players,'' Komets coach Gary Graham said. "It takes a couple of hours. You try to let the thoughts come to your mind, let them come in and then let them go away. Sometimes as a coach you can hold onto things too long with your mind when you need to be refocused on what do you need to prepare. It's all about the next game.''
The only thing that makes the process easier?
"After wins, it's much easier,'' forward Mike Embach said. "After a loss, you sit there and think about specific plays where you could have done something different. Then it's real tough to get to sleep.''
It's even more difficult with back-to-back games like the Komets and Royals will play Thursday and Friday.
"It's just trying to clear your mind,'' defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said. "When I can't sleep, it's because I'm thinking too much. I have this thing, this process I made up myself. When I have too many thoughts, I close my eyes and think about a big field of wheat in the wind. All my thoughts are in the wheat. Then I think a big white sheet in the wind falling on top of the wheat and covering my thoughts. It calms me down.''
While Danis-Pepin is saying this in the locker room, his teammates are laughing, but you know one of them is going to try to try it soon.