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K’s Baptista has enjoyed getting back in the flow

December 27, 2018

Mason Baptista hasn’t had much trouble re-acclimating to North American hockey. He’s totaled three goals and five points in five games since returning from Germany, and the Komets have gone 2-2-1 in those games heading into today’s 7:30 p.m. meeting at Memorial Coliseum with the Kalamazoo Wings.

“It’s been good,” said Baptista, a 28-year-old forward. “I just like how we have some systems and structure here. I knew coming back that I’d be coming to a more familiar atmosphere and I’d just be doing the same things that would make me successful : just getting to the net, tipping pucks and finishing opportunities.”

Baptista had career highs in goals (18) and points (50) in 62 games last season for the Komets, then added two goals and eight points in 18 playoff games as they reached Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.

He parlayed that season : his third with Fort Wayne : into a lucrative contract with Freiburg in Germany. He wasn’t the only Fort Wayne player to cash in overseas after a career year : so did Shawn Szydlowski, Gabriel Desjardins, Garrett Thompson and Curtis Leonard : and wasn’t the first to return to the Komets, either.

Szydlowski left Norway after totaling four goals and seven points in 11 games for Frisk Asker, and he’s since accrued four goals and 15 points in 17 games for Fort Wayne.

Baptista had one goal and 11 points in 25 games before parting ways with Freiburg.

“It just wasn’t a good fit,” Baptista said. “When you go to Europe, you have high expectations or you have some expectations and when you get there, it’s a little different. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s just how it is. I hope for nothing but the best for them.”

Baptista has already impacted the Komets’ special teams with a goal and an assist on power plays, and they expect him to improve the penalty kill, too.

But Baptista doesn’t feel increased pressure to produce, even as the Komets (14-12-1) are tied for fourth in the Central Division with Kalamazoo (14-13-1).

“Not really,” Baptista said. “As I’ve gotten older, I know what I can do and I know what kind of player I am. I just need to go out and be consistent. I knew coming back that what I needed to do was bring stability down the middle and play consistent hockey. In the first five games, that’s what I’ve been able to do.

“There are still some things to work on, some little edges to kind of work out, but I’m feeling good and still want to keep progressing and get better.”

A big slate of games is upcoming for the Komets, who are without goaltender Zach Fucale, in Davos, Switzerland, with Team Canada. Fort Wayne plays host to the ECHL-leading Cincinnati Cyclones (20-5-4) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Notes: J.C. Campagna (eye) is expected to return this week. Cody Sol (knee) is a possibility. ... Defenseman Chase Stewart, who had impressed as a rookie with four goals and 11 points in 20 games, left the Komets to accept a scholarship and play college hockey in Canada. ... A reminder of the 7:30 p.m. Friday game at Thunder Ice Arena in Angola between Komets Alumni and a Trine house team. Tickets are $12 at thundericearena.com. The Komets’ roster includes P.C. Drouin, Guy Dupuis, Ron Leef, Dale Baldwin, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and others. Trine will include coaches Alex Todd, Kevin Cole, Dan Mayes, Tom Hofman and Victoria Emoff. ... Indiana Tech assistant coach Andy DiCristofaro will be the backup goalie for Brampton today at Toledo. 

jcohn@jg.net

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