Fort Wayne Komets end Arizona Coyotes affiliation after one season

Fort Wayne Komets end Arizona Coyotes affiliation after one season

Like a bad marriage, the Fort Wayne Komets have suddenly severed ties with the Arizona Coyotes after just one season.

The announcement was made Monday, tucked into a news release announcing two new signings with the organization.

Justin Cohn of the News-Sentinel found Komets President Michael Franke and General Manager David Franke a bit difficult to get a hold of Monday, as both are attending the ECHL’s annual summer meetings in Las Vegas. However, he did get a hold of Komets coach Gary Graham.

“The Frankes will always do what they feel is best for the Fort Wayne Komets, and that’s what’s special about working for them. They are all about winning a championship. They want to have the ability to do some things and have flexibility within the organization, and sometimes if both teams aren’t 100 percent in line with how things look…”

The Coyotes were the third NHL affiliate the Komets have had since joining the ECHL in the 2012-13 season. In their inaugural season, they linked with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and AHL’s Norfolk Admirals.

In 2013-14, the Komets moved on and linked with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. However, that ended after two seasons and the Komets were independent until their affiliation with the Coyotes and Roadrunners began this past season.

In the past, the Franke family and Gary Graham himself have made it clear that they want the Komets to compete for championships and affiliation agreements mean sacrificing roster control and stability.

The loss of the Coyotes affiliation means players like former OHL Red Tilson Award winner and goaltender Michael Houser and speedy forward Artur Tyanulin will likely not return to the Komets.

In 45 games in net, Houser had a 2.73 GAA and a .909 save percentage, posting a 28-11-0 record for the Komets, who were eliminated by the eventual champions, the Colorado Eagles, in the 3rd round of the Kelly Cup this past season after seven games. In the playoffs, Houser’s numbers improved, as he posted a 2.44 GAA in 17 games and a .914 save percentage.

Tyanulin became something of a fan favorite in Komets, showing speed and grit, along with a knack for coming through in the clutch, like in the OT winner below. He also was a key offensive producer. In 39 games, Tyanulin registered 18 goals and 24 assists for the Komets, good for 42 points. He also was a +14 last season.

The door on their return isn’t necessarily closed unless Arizona and Tuscon find a new ECHL affiliate or the Komets find a new NHL/AHL affiliate. As an independent ECHL team, NHL and AHL teams can still send players to a team like the Komets.

This marks another chapter in an offseason of change for the Komets, who also lose the likes of Garrett Thompson (Frisk Asker in Norway), Gabriel Desjardins (Vasterviks IK in Sweden), and Mason Baptista (EHC Freiburg in Germany). All three recently explained their decisions to leave the Komets to the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne.

As for the signings that headlined the press release, the Komets announced the re-signing of forward Anthony Petruzzelli, 25, and the signing of fourth-year defenseman Kevin Gibson, 28.

Petruzzelli joined the Komets after finishing four years at the University of Vermont. He played four regular season games and scored three goals before playing 14 of the Komets 17 playoff games.

“Coach Gary Graham recruited Anthony last spring and he turned out to be a good player for us”, Komets general manager David Franke said in the news release.  “He is quick and tenacious and has some offensive up-side.  Anthony is excited to be back and looking to improve on his late season and playoff success.”

Gibson comes to the Komets after starting the 2017-18 campaign with the Milton Keynes Lightning of the EIHL in England, registering one goal and four assists (five points) in 11 games there. He then moved to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL, playing 54 games last season, scoring three times and adding 10 assists (13 points) and ending fourth on the Walleye with a +18.

“Kevin is a player we had liked since he played in Quad City,” Franke stated.  “Once he became a free agent we jumped at the opportunity.  Kevin is a solid two-way defenseman and his plus-minus stats are very impressive.  Kevin is excited to be finally coming to Komet-land.”

One final note on the Komets affiliation future…it was noted in the news release that the Komets will continue to pursue new affiliation options.

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