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Komets' Baptista making the most of recent hot streak

By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel<br /> <br /> Komets winger Mason Baptista has scored nine points, including six goals, over his last eight games.
By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel

Komets winger Mason Baptista has scored nine points, including six goals, over his last eight games.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Winger is establishing a solid pro career this season

Thursday, February 09, 2017 12:00 pm
One of the Fort Wayne Komets' biggest stories last year was the emergence of winger Kyle Thomas into a legitimate ECHL player after a short stint with the team two years ago. Today, Thomas has become an ECHL star, ranking sixth in the league scoring race. And now the same thing is happening with another winger in almost the exact same way. Mason Baptista played 15 games with the Komets last season, scoring four goals and nine points. The team brought him back from the start of this season, and Baptista has continued to improve with 11 goals and 20 points in 36 games. Over the past eight games, he's been the Komets' hottest scorer with six goals and nine points.

Baptista is building a career for himself this season, making the most of his opportunity.

"It's when you get you your chance, it's important to step up," Baptista said. "The one thing you know about hockey as you move higher is that you have no clue what your plans are. You have no idea what the situation is you are going to be in. I look at it as I take everything day-by-day and just try to do the things that make me successful. That's working hard, hounding pucks, being a puck hunter, a net-front specialist and a very aggressive player. If I'm not doing those things, I"m not going to be in the lineup."

Baptista recently went on a six-game goal-scoring streak, and the scores were beautiful in their simplicity. There weren't any snipes, dangles or wristers. All the goals came withing 10 feet of the goal, usually off rebounds or deflections. They were greasy, ugly garbage goals, but they counted just as much as anyone else's pretty ones. They were all caused by hard work and taking his lumps as he skated to the net.

"No one really asks how you did it, they ask how many," Baptista said with a smile.

There have been two keys to Baptista's recent success, going to the net and taking more shots.

"I'm coming down hard and heavy and I'm just shooting the puck more," he said. "I'm not scoring a lot of those pretty goals, but I'm putting more pucks to the net and then getting to the net. I like to see myself as a net-front specialist. I want to be around. I'm not super big, but I can move around very well and just keep my stick on the ice, and work on the little details around the net."

He also took personally coach Gary Graham's appeal for his team to take more shots on goal. Over his last six games, Baptista has taken 28 shots on goal, which is a team-high over that span. Baptista understands that he has to be more aggressive if he's going to succeed.

"If I want to score more goals, then I need to shoot more and that and that has played a huge role in this," he said.

This entire season has been about building confidence. Because the Komets didn't have an NHL affiliation this year, Baptista knew he had a strong chance to make the team in training camp, and now he's earned a regular spot in the lineup by doing the little things well. It also helped that he was more comfortable in Fort Wayne this time.

"Last year I got to see what the environment was like here," he said. "The big thing is it's a winning culture and they expect results. There are so many good players here, that when your opportunity comes up you have to take advantage of it. I enjoy it here because it's like where I come from at St. Norbert College where we always had a winning mentality. The expectation was to win a championship and if we didn't the season was a failure. That's how I see it here. Getting far doesn't count for anything."

St. Norbert's won NCAA Division III titles in 2012 and 2014 while Baptista was playing, and he was the team's second-leading scorer in 2014.

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

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