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Pair vs. Fuel key for Komets’ evaluation

October 5, 2018

When you’re trying to whittle 32 players down to 20, about 10 days isn’t a whole lot of time. But that’s what the Komets’ training camp consists of, and it ramps up to its climax with a home-and-home preseason series with the Indy Fuel at 6 p.m. today in Indianapolis and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.

That will be coach Gary Graham’s best opportunity to determine his roster.

“There are so many interesting moving parts in this training camp, it’s going to be neat to see the way it shakes out,” Graham said. “It’s a big puzzle.”

The Komets opened camp Monday at the Coliseum with only eight players back from last season : Jamie Schaafsma, Cody Sol, Marco Roy, Jason Binkley, Ryan Lowney, Justin Hodgman, Anthony Petruzzelli and Taylor Crunk : when Fort Wayne reached overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals but lost to eventual-champion Colorado.

Gone are so many big pieces from that team, including league MVP and leading scorer Shawn Szydlowski, Gabriel Desjardins and Garrett Thompson, that much of this week has been spent evaluating who can possibly fill the void talent-wise and who can work well together.

“You definitely want to figure out chemistry and who works well with who, and the systems, get everyone on the same page,” Crunk said, adding that it’s important newcomers gain an understanding of the expectations of winning here.

“The culture, the winning culture here, it’s unreal. The fans are second to none. We have the best fan base, I believe. You feed them that information.”

Sol said there are clearly standout offensive talents among the new players, such as Garret Ross, Garrett Ladd and Trent Fox, who should impress the Coliseum fans.

“The tradition here is winning,” Sol said. “It’s been awhile since they’ve won a championship (in 2012) but I think we’ve got the right tools. Our division is the toughest division every year in the (ECHL) so we’ll be playing against tough teams like Toledo, Kalamazoo and Indy, and it makes you a tough team, too.”

Among Graham’s more difficult decisions will be figuring out how to replace the losses of offensive defensemen such as Ryan Culkin and Bobby Shea, though he thinks Kevin Gibson, Jeff King and Alexander Kuqali could all eclipse 30 points, and determining who will be the backup to goaltender Zach Fucale : Kyle Hayton or Lukas Hafner.

“It’s probably going to be the most heated competition of this camp,” Graham said.

Notes: The Komets released goalie Gordy Defiel. ... The ECHL announced it will test video replay of goals at home games this season at arenas in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Boise, Idaho. At the referee’s discretion, goals can be reviewed using overhead cameras to determine if they crossed the goal line; entered off a kicking motion; were batted or thrown into the net; or entered before the net was dislodged from its moorings.

jcohn@jg.net

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