Anthony Petruzzelli's jersey looks a little different – there's now a “C” emblazoned on the front to denote his new captaincy – but he doesn't think anything's going to change in how the team operates.
Petruzzelli views himself as a lead-by-example player, guiding the Komets through his hustle and having never missed a game because of injury, a run now up to 239 games. He also recognizes that the Komets rely on a group of leaders – including Marcus McIvor, Zach Tolkinen, Connor Jones, Kellen Jones and Shawn Szydlowski – rather than any one man.
After the worst performance of the season, a 7-2 loss to the rival Toledo Walleye at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday, the Komets' leadership will be tested to make sure it doesn't happen again when the Komets begin a pivotal three-game weekend tonight against the Cincinnati Cyclones.
And they'll do it with new goalies.
The Komets released netminders Bailey Brkin and Tommy Proudlock among sweeping changes to the roster Thursday. Brkin, who had been the Komets' third goalie before Samuel Harvey and Jiri Patera were called to the higher-level American Hockey League last month, was 2-2-0 with a 3.06 goals-against average, a .869 save percentage and one shutout. Proudlock stopped 13 of 15 shots in relief Wednesday.
To fill the void, the Komets have signed rookie Liam Hughes, who was 3-4-0 with a 3.73 GAA and a .891 SP this season for the University of Manitoba. He previously played in the Western Hockey League and was 21-11-0 with a 2.53 GAA, a .914 SP and three shutouts for the Winnipeg Ice in 2019-20. The Komets will add another goalie today.
The Komets got back defenseman/forward Will Graber from Hershey of the AHL on Thursday, traded forward Bailey Conger to Kansas City for an undisclosed amount of cash and lost defenseman Blake Siebenaler to Charlotte of the AHL.
Mass roster changes are the norm this season, and the Komets were focused on putting Wednesday's game behind them. Asked how they'll do that, Petruzzelli said: “Honestly, just forget (the last game). It's a 72-game season for a reason and you're not going to win every single night, unfortunately. Maybe dwell on it for 20, 30 minutes, let it sink in, then move on. The only thing you can do is play the next game and do it the right way.”
Petruzzelli was unveiled as the Komets' new captain just before the loss to Toledo. He hadn't been a captain since youth hockey, but he'd been a de facto one for the Komets since Matthew Boudens was called to the AHL's Henderson Silver Knights on Nov. 18.
“We need a leader on this team and whether he's worn the 'C' or the 'A,' (Petruzzelli) has been a leader both on and off the ice,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “So it was time that we had somebody represent the team and I think somebody who has been Mr. Komet the last few years is someone who exemplifies exactly what we need and someone who can wear the captaincy.”
Given the way the pandemic has wreaked havoc with hockey – the ECHL has been particularly gutted by higher-level teams over the last two weeks – the Komets aren't confident Boudens will return. Asked who would be the captain if he does, Boudreau said: “We'll cross that bridge if we come to it.”
McIvor is one alternate captain. Siebenaler is the other.
The Komets (16-8-3) are tied with Cincinnati (17-11-1) for second place in the Central Division, and both teams are three points back of Toledo (18-6-2). The Komets begin a home-and-home series with the Walleye on Saturday at the Coliseum.
at Cincinnati Cyclones
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Heritage Bank Center, Cincinnati
vs. Toledo Walleye
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Coliseum
at Toledo Walleye
When: 5:15 p.m. Sunday
Where: Huntington Center, Toledo
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM