FORT WAYNE – when the confidence is waning, the energy lacking and the wins hard to come by – true leaders come to the forefront.
If you have them.
The Komets do, and center Brett Smith’s performance Saturday night was a perfect example. He had a goal, an assist and two fights as the Komets defeated the North Division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones 7-2 in front of 7,484 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
His timing was perfect.
There’s no question about Smitty’s leadership, Komets coach Al Sims said. Look at what he did tonight, and you just can’t say enough about the guy. For someone his size (5-foot-8) to do the things he does to get his team motivated, it’s just incredible.
On Friday night, the Komets suffered a lackadaisical 5-1 loss at the hands of the Kalamazoo Wings. The fans booed. The post-game scene was panicked.
The players had a closed-door meeting, the theme of which was the need to play better at the start of games at the Coliseum, where they had just dropped to 10-13-0. General manager David Franke stopped by the locker room to let his displeasure be known, and he continues to work on bringing a player back from Europe before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline.
The Komets (25-20-2) left nothing to doubt against the Cyclones (26-16-6), as forward Matt Firman had two goals and an assist.
(Friday) night, we didn’t have it. It was embarrassing, Smith said. They jumped on top of us and that’s not what this team is all about. We came out on time tonight. Myself, and the whole team, was ready. We were finishing hits and scoring goals, and that’s hockey right there.
Donning pink jerseys for the second straight night – part of a promotion with the Vera Bradley Foundation to raise money for the battle against breast cancer – the Komets came out strong. They got a power-play goal from Smith, who was set up by Brandon Marino’s pass from behind the net, at 9:18 of the first period.
The Komets are 16-4-1 this season in games in which they’ve scored the first goal.
Smith’s goal was soon followed by a fight between Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Anthony Luciani. Later in the period, Smith fought forward David Pacan, who had taken exception to a ferocious Smith hit on defenseman Josh McFadden that didn’t draw a penalty.
In the second period, defenseman Daniel Maggio rocketed a shot from the blue line and Firman redirected it underneath Cyclones goalie Michael Houser for a 2-0 lead. Just after Firman scored again, crashing his way to a rebound and poking it in, Smith and McFadden fought.
Houser was yanked after stopping 21 of 24 shots. His replacement, Brian Foster, stopped 9 of 13, allowing goals to Matt Syroczynski, Scott Kishel, Shrock and John Dunbar.
The Cyclones broke the shutout at 6:04 of the third period, when defenseman Taylor Ellington scored from 40 feet out, as goalie Charlie Effinger was screened. Effinger stopped 34 of 36 shots.