Szydlowski confident K’s have goods to win
Shawn Szydlowski doesn’t believe one player can turn this season around or even needs to turn this season around.
As he sees it, the Komets already had plenty of talent and showed it by winning twice over the weekend.
“I think even before I came back : the team was 1-5 before I made the decision : I was just looking through the lineup and knew the type of character that was in the locker room. I knew the team just wasn’t playing at the level it could be yet and I wasn’t too worried,” said Szydlowski, the ECHL’s MVP and leading scorer for the Komets last season, who rejoined the team Monday after a stint in Norway.
“If I can come back and help, that’s my plan, but even before I came back I was confident they would turn this thing around.”
Fans of the Komets have seen this sort of scenario before.
In 2010-11, the Komets were the worst team in the Central Hockey League before their beloved longtime captain, Colin Chaulk, returned from Italy. They already had some momentum, going 4-0-2 for a 9-15-3 record before his arrival, and they finished the regular season 31-27-8 and reached the second round of the playoffs.
The Komets were already off to a good start in 2007-08 in the International Hockey League at 7-3-2, but P.C. Drouin leaving England for Fort Wayne, where he had spent two earlier seasons, helped make the Komets a 56-12-8 power that captured the Turner Cup.
Following suit, Szydlowski, now in his sixth season with Fort Wayne, is hungry for a championship after he left his Norwegian team, Frisk Asker, where he skated alongside one of his teammates from last season, Garrett Thompson.
“It was a lot of things, a lot of personal decisions. Maybe I wasn’t ready for (Europe),” Szydlowski said. “I had some unfinished stuff and wasn’t 100 percent committed over there and didn’t want to take somebody else’s job or be a detriment to the team if my heart wasn’t totally into it.
“Once I realized that, it was an easy decision to come back.”
One of the first people Szydlowski reached out to was Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma, who is expected to skate on a line with Szydlowski and Garrett Ladd.
“We expect it to be a boost for our offense and, as a team, we’re really excited to have him back,” Schaafsma said.
Szydlowski, 28, totaled 31 goals, 79 points and 76 penalty minutes in 64 games last season, then added four goals, 17 points and 16 penalty minutes in 17 playoff games before the Komets were ousted by the eventual-champion Colorado Eagles.
He totaled four goals and seven points in 11 games in Norway, where the physical style of play Szydlowski thrives at isn’t as commonplace. Not only is he a multiple winner of the Komets’ MVP and best defensive forward awards, he drops the gloves to fight.
“It’s great to get a proven scorer, a guy in this league who knows what it takes to win in Fort Wayne and how hard it is to win in this league. Obviously, Norway didn’t work out and we didn’t expect this to happen, but sometimes these opportunities present themselves,” said Komets coach Gary Graham, whose team plays three straight against the Rapid City Rush (5-3-2) beginning Wednesday at Rapid City, South Dakota.
Szydlowski played through a painful back injury last season, but he said he feels great.
“The back’s been good,” Szydlowski said. “To be honest, it hasn’t been a problem at all this year, which has been great for me. Throughout the beginnings of the years, it’s usually been tough for me, sore getting back into skating, but I’ve been playing hockey for three months already and it hasn’t been a problem.”
Szydlowski was an unrestricted free agent and could have signed with another ECHL team, but the Komets (3-5-0) were the logical landing spot. To make room, they had to clear one of their four veterans : Schaafsma, leading-scorer Justin Hodgman, Cody Sol or Garret Ross : and they did so Sunday by dealing Ross to South Carolina for Jake Kamrass.
On Monday, the Komets traded forward Thomas Ebbing, who was scoreless in six games, to Greenville for future considerations.
“It’s a very comfortable feeling (here),” Szydlowski said. “Everyone knows I love being here. Everyone knows how bad I want to win. Everyone knows the attitude I have.
“Everyone who stays here, they know the mindset we’ve had in the locker room and we just want to keep it going.”