AP NEWS

Rookie Hope adds physical play to K’s

April 9, 2019

With a surname like Hope, you’d better deliver.

In the case of Kyle Hope, he’s brought something the fans at Memorial Coliseum were craving in particular : a physical brand of hockey.

As they know in his hometown, Blenheim, Ontario, population 4,563 (including Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma), Hope’s knack for hitting opponents as much as fooling them with playmaking ability has been there a long time.

“I’ve always kind of played hard like that,” said Hope, a 25-year-old rookie who joined the Komets on Feb. 20 after finishing his five-year career at the University of Windsor. “I think it stems from having two brothers that are really close in age. We’re super competitive and it’s just the way I’ve always played. It’s something I bring to the table.”

The Hope brothers : Kyle, Brett and Shawn : are within about 36 months in age and playing hockey in the basement with their father, Scott, was a staple growing up. It’s not hard to see where the ability to get rough, talk trash or even fight originated.

“Those 2-on-2 games would generally end in a fight and my mom coming down and telling us to break it up,” said Hope, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, who has four goals and 13 points in just 20 games with the Komets.

Brett played professionally, too, logging six games with the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Fayetteville FireAntz and 15 games in the Federal Hockey League with the Brewster Bulldogs. Shawn played in juniors for the hometown Blenheim Blades and Wheatley Sharks. And their father captained the Chatham Maroons in the 1980s.

Schaafsma, 36, who was selected MVP of the Komets by his teammates Sunday, has known Hope so long that he remembers refereeing his youth games more than 14 years ago. They skate together in the offseason and have family members on the same recreational hockey teams.

″(Schaafsma) has always said really good things about the culture here and that’s what I wanted to have my pro experience be like. I wanted to be part of a good culture, a winning culture,” said Hope, who passed in 2014 on a contract with the American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons, the top affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, so that he could play in college.

In 2013-14, Hope’s final season in juniors, he had 25 goals and 49 points in 59 games with Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League, and he played two games with Lake Erie of the AHL, so it’s not hard to see why he was sought after.

This year, several pro teams vied for his services, too, after he accrued 11 goals and 28 points in 27 games and was second team all-conference in Ontario University Athletics.

Now he’s a pivotal player for the Komets, who begin their best-of-7 Central Division semifinals playoff series with the rival Toledo Walleye at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.

“I’m super thankful for the opportunity to be able to play here,” Hope said. “They’re giving me the opportunity to play most games. It’s a good team here, a good leadership group. Getting in the lineup, no matter what line you’re going play on, it’ll be excellent players and it’s been a treat.”

The Komets left rookies Dalton Hamaliuk, Alexander Katerinakis and Jiri Patera off their playoff roster Monday.

That will put even more pressure on Hope to deliver as the Komets face the Walleye for the fourth time in five years : Fort Wayne won the division finals last year : because the teams usually play physically against one another.

“I’ve tried to stick to my game, do what I do best,” Hope said, “and that’s be physical, play hard down low, get to the net.”

Notes: Kalamazoo’s Chris Collins was selected ECHL Rookie of the Year by coaches, reporters, broadcasters and media-relations directors. Cincinnati’s Myles Powell was second and Idaho’s Tomas Sholl was third.

jcohn@jg.net