It was so blurry that striker Anthony Nellis isn’t exactly digesting what he’s achieving. He leads the ECHL playoffs in goals (seven) and points (12) over 11 games, and his comets are within reach of a Kelly Cup, not bad for a player who, in hindsight, hasn’t received enough audience attention as the season started.
“I feel like we’ve been playing so many games lately that we just play one game and then immediately focus on another game. In the (Western Conference Finals) against Allen, we played four games in five nights and it was possible that we would play five in six. You don’t really have time to figure out where you are in the statistics columns, ”said Nellis.
“Of course I know that I am currently successful, but I have to pay tribute to my line mates. I also got a lot of opportunities from the coach (Ben Boudreau). Getting the trust of my team-mates and my coach is a big boost for me. “
The Komets, who are 1 in the Best of 5 Kelly Cup Final with the South Carolina Stingrays, have their list of catchy names like Shawn Szydlowski, AJ Jenks, Brandon Hawkins, Justin Vaive, Anthony Petruzzelli, Marco Roy, Zach Pochiro and Blake Siebenaler.
Nellis seemed like a good support. The Komets liked what he did for them as a rookie from Lake Superior State at the end of the 2018/19 season, with six goals and 10 points in 15 games, including five playoff games. Last season, he went on to become a solid player with 15 goals and 29 points in 47 games for the Idaho Steelheads, plus three games with the Texas Stars of the higher-ranking American Hockey League.
It was in this regular season that he flourished. In 39 games he had 10 goals and 30 points; was crucial in both power play and penalty shoot-outs; brought a quick, physical brand that earned him the team’s Mr. Hustle Award; and was voted Fort Wayne’s Most Improved Player.
“This year was a whole different year when I compared my beginning to where I am now,” said Nellis, 26, a native of Breakeyville, Quebec. “I just accept the process. So far, I’ve been doing well in the playoffs. I just have to keep going. Realistically, we only have one week of hockey left. I just want to keep going and the ultimate goal is to win this trophy. “
Nellis had playoff successes in juniors, reached two playoffs and in Lake Superior State, who lost in his senior year in the semifinals of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament to Minnesota State. But never before had he seen such a grueling schedule – 17 games in the last 32 days, covering 8,355 miles – and he had never won a cup.
This could change soon; Game 3 takes place on Wednesday at 7.30 p.m. in the Memorial Coliseum, where games 4 and 5 can also be played if required.
“We have to win two, but they have to win in our barn so I think we’re comfortable in this situation,” said Nellis, whose team won 7-2 and then lost 4-2 in North Charleston, South Carolina. “The goal was to get at least one (victory) there. Now if you win the first, your goal will change and you want to win the second. But at the end of the day the (original) goal was to win one there and everyone is realistic and now we are optimistic about what lies ahead of us. “
Nellis has at least one point in 7 out of 11 playoff games. In five games since he was brought on line with Szydlowski and Alan Lyszczarczyk, he has scored four goals and eight points, and the line has totaled seven goals and 23 points. Nellis was the only Fort Wayne player to score in Games 1 and 2 of the Finals.
Nellis’ rights remain with the Steelheads, who dropped out of the season due to the pandemic. The rights to Hawkins, Vaive, Lyszczarczyk, Randy Gazzola and Mathieu Brodeur also belong to other teams. But that’s not what Nellis thinks right now.
“My goal was to win this year no matter where I played,” he said. “Fort Wayne, I’m glad you showed interest in me. I had played here before so they knew me but the attitude hasn’t changed and I’m not thinking about where I’ll end up next year. I’d rather win this trophy and see what the future holds. “
Remarks: More than 6,100 tickets for game 3 were sold. … The Colosseum is fully occupied again and reminds the fans: There is still a clear bag policy with rules on komets.com; Fans not vaccinated against COVID-19 should wear masks as per health recommendations; and patience is required on the concession lines due to staff shortages.