The Komets are the reigning champions of the ECHL. But Anthony Petruzzelli, one of the leaders on their revamped roster, believes the hungry mentality remains at training camp.
“I don't think it's any different at all,” Petruzzelli said. “The thing we've always talked about at the beginning of training camp is we don't just come here to make the playoffs; you know, the whole goal is to end up winning it at the end. So, we've got to come into this with the same mentality that we've had the last few years, it's just now with a little bit bigger target on our backs.”
Only Petruzzelli, Matthew Boudens, Oliver Cooper, Blake Siebenaler, Marcus McIvor and Stefanos Lekkas are back from last season. Petruzzelli is Fort Wayne's longest-tenured player, having joined in the spring of 2018 out of the University of Vermont.
With A.J. Jenks retired, it's likely Petruzzelli or Boudens will be named captain. Regardless, Petruzzelli doesn't plan to change much about his way of doing things – leading by example with a high-energy style that results in hits, digs for pucks in the corners, traffic in front of the net, and a lot of scoring.
“I've always been a big supporter of having Jenks and (Shawn Szydlowski) here and, as a younger guy, I looked up to them and tried to learn a bit from them every day,” said Petruzzelli, 28. “I was fairly quiet for the most part, but they taught me that you don't have to say a whole lot. You just wait for the right time, the appropriate time, to say the right things and things will be OK. I think I've always kind of been an on-ice leader through the way I play, working so hard.
“Now it's maybe me taking that next step and being a little bit more of a vocal leader in the locker room and trying to make guys more comfortable and help them out here when they need it.”
Petruzzelli has 32 goals, including 11 game-winners, and 108 points in 179 regular-season games with the Komets. In 33 playoff games, he has one goal and eight points. He's racked up a bevy of team awards, including two for best defensive forward, one as most improved player, and one for community service.
Perhaps most impressive, given his style of play, Petruzzelli has never missed a Fort Wayne game due to injury; he's only been out if he's been called to the higher-level American Hockey League. And it's clear that coach Ben Boudreau is going to lean on the leadership of Petruzzelli and Boudens.
“I think there's something to say about knowing what type of effort you're going to get from (Petruzzelli) every single night,” Boudreau said. “Same with Boudens – every time he's found a way to play games for us, he's made an impact one way or the other, and he showcased that during the playoffs by making huge impacts at the right times. So those two guys are older and they know what it's all about, and we're going to rely on them heavily to help the transition with a lot of the new guys.”
Petruzzelli, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, can trace some of his durability to the way he works on his body in the offseason. But he's also been trying to improve his shot technique and thought process.
“I take my training in the offseason pretty seriously,” he said. “Probably the biggest thing I've been working on is getting pucks off my stick a little quicker toward the net. I kind of struggled with that a little bit toward the end of last (season). A lot of it, too, has to do with the mental part of the game, learning and growing and not letting those things get to you. I took a little bit of time this summer and reflected on how I performed. You just kind of look back and see what you can do differently, learn and grow that way.”