P.C. Drouin was busy hugging someone, or everyone, when the rest of the Fort Wayne Komets gathered on the ice Saturday night for their impromptu third straight Turner Cup championship photo.
Drouin summoned one last burst of energy, skated around the family and friends holding the digital cameras, and slid into view, lower-left corner.
This time, this history-making time, he felt like he fit right in.
“I felt a little bit out of the loop last year, not playing in a playoff game,” Drouin said. “It was important that I feel like I contributed a lot this time.”
As the Komets claimed their franchise-record third-consecutive Turner Cup title with a 3-2 win over the Flint Generals on Saturday night at Memorial Coliseum, Drouin had every right to feel like he'd “contributed,” to put it mildly.
Drouin belonged in the photo in a big way, leading the Komets in the playoffs with five goals and 17 points, including a pair of goals Saturday as the Komets took the Turner Cup Finals four games to one.
But this Komets photo deserves to be displayed in all-inclusive glory.
Drouin is a natural to put out front – of the photo and this column – because he so savored the win after missing the playoffs with a broken arm a year ago. He's also a fan favorite, an upfront guy and a locker room leader. And his pair of goals Saturday was invaluable.
To run a solo photo of him would be wrong, however. There are so many heroes to squeeze into this “threepeat” photo, I can't mention them all unless I run the roster. From the savvy player signings of the Franke family ownership to the deft touch of four-time championship coach Al Sims to the “team-first” attitude of the outstanding goalkeeping tandem of Nick Boucher and Tim Haun, the stories of why this team took the ultimate prize are endless.
Pan the photo and focus on the young face of Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock. A Fort Wayne kid who grew up idolizing the Komets, he seemed as thrilled to acquire an autograph from Komets legend Steve Fletcher after the game as he was in touching the Turner Cup. That's called tradition, and respect for tradition. The great teams have it, that link from team to team, decade to decade, that forever holds that bar of success high.
Take a look at Boucher and Haun, proof positive that one plus one equals three(peat). Boucher was nearly untouchable except when he traveled to Flint, where the smaller ice clearly contained remnants of kryptonite. He tossed his ego aside, deferred to Haun for Game 4, and Haun delivered as he had all year in thriving as the International Hockey League's best goalie. Then, Haun turned it back over to Boucher and watched. Haun skated around postgame with the smile of satisfaction that proves winning supersedes personal success.
Matt Syroczynski wears a look of satisfaction on his playoff-bearded face, too. He was picked as the playoff MVP by the IHL, scoring 11 goals, including the first in Saturday's win. Syroczynski made his pro debut with the Komets in 2006-07 and came back this year because, well, that's what former Komets do. They return for more. More fun, love and wins.
You can't put the crowd in this photo, but they surrounded the Komets with sound Saturday, officially listed as 10,480 with a decidedly orange glow.
“It's awesome,” Drouin said. “Next to playing in the NHL, this is second-best. These fans are nuts. They wanted to see the cup. They wanted to see the cup stay. They gave us great support and a great atmosphere.”
Make sure to linger on the faces of eight players who have been part of the Komets' run these last three years. There's Drouin and Boucher. There's Colin Chaulk and Guy Dupuis. There's David Hukalo and Kevin Bertram. There's Justin Hodgman, who's a hired playoff gun because he savors playing here.
Then there's local boy Brandon Warner. He thinks every season ends this way. He won a championship as a senior at Michigan State. He came to the Komets as a rookie in 2007-08, won a title. Came back for his second season, won a title. Came back for this third, won a title.
“I hate losing,” Warner said. “I'm not a good loser. I'm a sore loser. If we would have come out of this without a championship, I'd have been pretty disappointed. That's one thing that's special about this group. We have the best veteran group of guys in any hockey league in the world. They hate to lose.”
The celebration was long and raucous Saturday. There's nothing like the sound of a crowd in the final seconds of a championship-clinching win. There's nothing like the sight of player after player skating around with the Turner Cup held high.
Like Drouin, those who felt a part of the win wanted to skate free and slide in front of the cameras to preserve it forever.
Three in a row for the Komets.