The Fort Wayne Komets earned themselves a shorter bus ride over the weekend. The Komets will start the Central Hockey League playoffs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bloomington in the best-of-five series. After the Komets beat Colorado 2-1 before a sellout Memorial Coliseum crowd to clinch sixth place, the Prairie Thunder lost 3-2 in a shootout to Evansville on Sunday to finish third in the Turner Conference.
Game 2 will be played at 4 p.m. Sunday in Bloomington, and the first two games in Fort Wayne are April 6 and 8. If necessary, a Game 5 would be played April 10 in Bloomington..
“I think Bloomington is a low-scoring team like us,” said Komets coach Al Sims. “They are at the bottom of the rankings in goals for and it's going to be 2-1 or 3-2 every night. We know that, and I'm sure they know it, too. They beat us by a goal the last two games, but we beat them three times, too. We have some confidence going against them.”
The Komets were 2-3 in Bloomington this season, but also 1-4 against the Prairie Thunder in Fort Wayne.
All CHL teams have until 1 p.m. to submit their final 19-man rosters. That means the Komets will have to release two players.
“This league forces you to have guys who have been here all year and you have to part ways with them when the playoffs start,” Sims said. “It's just crazy, and you have to put two amateurs in their place. I'd prefer that they just let us keep 21 guys and forget the amateurs, but this is the way it is in this league, and it's going to be real difficult.”
One of those missing players will be forward Jon Mirasty, who left Fort Wayne on Sunday to return to Syracuse, N.Y., where his wife is expecting their first child. Mirasty was left out of the lineup Saturday night. Asked if he had been told he was not being included on the final roster, Mirasty declined to comment about that specifically.
“I'm just glad this season is over with,” he said. “It's been a long and hard one with me. I think signing with Anaheim in the offseason last year was a big mistake. I think I'll regroup this summer and you'll see me next year, hopefully back in the AHL (American Hockey League). I've already heard from some teams.”
After being assigned to the Komets from Anaheim on Feb. 9, Mirasty played in 19 games, earning 40 penalty minutes.
“It's a great organization,” Mirasty said. “David Franke runs a good ship here. I think they have their head on their shoulders pretty well.
“I wasn't too happy with the way Al Sims played me and the amount of ice time he gave me. I couldn't really play my role and intimidate with the ice time he gave me. I think I played a little bit more at the AHL level. The organization itself is great, and I enjoyed my time here. The fans were second to none. I have nothing but good things to say about the organization. It's first-class.”
After Saturday's game, the Komets presented their annual season awards. Colin Chaulk was named the most valuable player for the fifth time, After joining the team Jan. 7, Chaulk finished with 40 points in 39 games. There is no official Komets record for most MVP awards.
Frankie DeAngelis was named the top defenseman and Dustin Molle the rookie of the year. Molle also received the Bud Gallmeier Award for community service, and Tab Lardner was named the top defensive forward. Kaleigh Schrock won both Mr. Hustle and the Wiegmann Family True Komet Award. Craig Cescon was named the team's unsung hero. Rookie Artem Podshendyalov was named the most improved player.