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Ugly return to Komets still weighs on Hodgman

October 3, 2018

Thirty.

That’s how old Justin Hodgman is now.

“It’s just a number. I feel young and I’m ready to go. I can’t wait,” said Hodgman, whose Komets skated their second day of training camp Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

But that number : 30 : is significant for another, much more ominous, reason when it comes to Hodgman.

It’s the paltry number of regular-season games he skated last season, after his much ballyhooed return to Fort Wayne from the epic days of 2008-2010, when he helped it to three straight championships in the now-defunct International Hockey League and scored arguably the most famous goal in franchise history.

Hodgman, who had played in the NHL for the Arizona Coyotes and starred overseas in the intervening years, was supposed to be a top-line star for the Komets last season.

He was at times, totaling nine goals and 26 points, but a shoulder injury kept him out much of the season, as did a death in the family and an illness.

And just when he reentered the lineup in the opening game of the playoffs, a hit from Cincinnati’s Dominic Zombo left him concussed and he missed the rest of the Komets’ run to overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, where Fort Wayne lost to the eventual-champion Colorado Eagles.

Hodgman looked back, thinking it was a mix of bad luck and poor preparation.

“Last year, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in how the season went, how my health went,” Hodgman said. “The fracture in my shoulder and the concussion were out of my control. But still, I think I could have come in in better shape.”

Hodgman, who resides in Fort Wayne, is known for scoring the Turner Cup-winning goal in triple-overtime of Game 7 against Port Huron in 2008, when he was a 19-year-old rookie and the Komets recovered from a 3-1 series deficit. He totaled seven goals and 14 points in 13 playoff games, was the IHL’s Playoff MVP, and even returned to juniors the next season.

Now he fills one of the Komets’ four veteran spots, along with captain Jamie Schaafsma, alternate captain Cody Sol and newcomer Garret Ross.

“I’m very grateful to be back,” he said. “It would have been easy for (the Komets) to move on. There are only four veteran spots and they’re not tough to fill. I’ve always felt privileged to be here, but more so now. I feel very privileged to be back and I want them to feel they made the right choice.”

As a way to make sure he’s in better shape, Hodgman worked rigorously with a skating coach for the first time since he was about 13 : John Salway at SportONE/Parkview Icehouse : which he hopes will make his stride more forgiving on his hip and groin.

And Hodgman engaged in spirited workouts with locals such as Jackson Leef and Matt Miller, and another Komet recovering from injuries, Taylor Crunk.

“This is the most attention I’ve paid to my body and the most prepared I’ve come in to training camp in a long time,” Hodgman said.

Notes: Marco Roy, who was released by Laval of the American Hockey League, was expected to join the Komets on Tuesday night. ... The standout of the Komets’ intra-squad scrimmage was rookie Mathieu Nadeau, who had the only two goals : both from within 25 feet. ... Goaltender Michael Houser, who was with the Komets last season, has been assigned by Rochester of the AHL to Cincinnati.

jcohn@jg.net

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