A better start led to a much better finish Saturday night for the Fort Wayne Komets.
A night after being embarrassed by the Gwinnett Gladiators 4-2, the real Komets showed up Saturday night and came back to play an entirely different game in a 1-0 rematch before 7,207 Memorial Coliseum fans.
``The guys wanted it tonight, and they wanted to show Gwinnett the type of team we are,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``Our resiliency was really good tonight.''
The Komets did a much better job of battling all over the ice, particularly in front of goaltender Charlie Effinger who finished with 43 saves. Fort Wayne players were more confident, better prepared and seemed to trust their systems a lot more.
They were jumping off the bench to rush into the play, finishing checks and challenging Gladiators' puck handlers all over the ice. Rarely did the opponents go into a battle along the boards or in the corners without the Komets coming out with the puck.
``We decided before the game that it was going to be a tight, low-scoring game,'' Sims said. ``We were going to try to win the game 1-0, and I didn't think that would come to fruition but obviously one guy took that comment seriously, and that was Charlie. He's the most important guy to do that.''
The Komets also did a much better job of cutting off the back door chances near Effinger, pushing Gladiators away from the crease and challenging Gwinnett's speedy transition game through the neutral zone. There was also limited access to the few rebounds Effinger allowed.
``They blocked shots on the penalty kills and did a great job in front of the net,'' Effinger said. ``If I gave up a rebound there were guys ready to clear it out and clear it out with a purpose.''
This time, Gwinnett's Mike Lee was the goaltender keeping his team in the game by making sensational saves to keep the margin close.
The Komets scored first by swarming Lee's crease late in the first period. With six players standing within five feet of Lee, Fort Wayne's Josh Brittain found a loose puck and popped it just inside the far post with a backhand.
``We knew we weren't going to score much tonight,'' Sims said. ``I said, `I think we can get two tonight, but if we do it's gotta be enough to win.' Defense is just effort and commitment. It's not a special talent or anything like that.''