Komm All 'Ye Faithful
by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Reporter
One point was all they needed. One point last weekend would have given the Bentley Falcons a first-round bye in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs. Instead, they will be hosting Sacred Heart in the first round.
But the Falcons would not be the six seed in the playoffs and hosting a playoff series, or even come as close as they did, to a first round bye without Branden Komm.
After playing in just seven games last year and missing a lot of time due to injury, Komm has returned in his sophomore season and has emerged as Bentley’s No. 1 goalie.
“Last year was real tough for him because he was hurt,” head coach Ryan Soderquist said. “He was hurt twice. It wasn’t his lack of ability.
“His confidence level is where it needs to be at this point in the year. He feels good about his game. He’s out being aggressive. He’s been out challenging shooters and he’s been able to do that because he has confidence in his 'D' corps that they'll pick him up in terms of second-chance, third-chance opportunities won’t be there.”
And that confidence has translated into success. Komm's 2.39 goals against average and .923 save percentage are both good for sixth in Atlantic Hockey.
But both Komm and Soderquist realize he hasn’t been doing it alone.
“Our 'D' has been doing a great job at net front, tying up men and making sure if he’s out and aggressive all he has to do is make the first save,” Soderquist said.
“The success has come from my team doing a really job of letting me see the puck and limiting the chances they have to score against me,” Komm said.
If the season ended today, both his goals against average and save percentage would also break Bentley records by a wide margin. Kyle Rank currently holds the goals against average record at 2.68 while Ray Jean holds the save percentage record at .916.
“If I end up breaking some record then I’m happy about it but my focus is on winning a championship,” Komm said.
Soderquist says that Komm doesn’t care about the stats. He just wants to win.
“I think that’s a cliché when people say ‘I’m not worried about records. I’m not worried about individual stats’ but he truly is not worried at all about individual stats," Soderquist said. "At this point in time, I think he knows he just wants to go out there and win the game. He wants to be part of something special. And being part of something special and winning a championship, no one has to be worried about their individual stats.
“I definitely know, and feel this deep in my heart, that his only concern is whether we win or lose games. That’s important to his teammates and it’s important to me as a coach.”
While Komm may not care about his numbers, the rest of the league does. He has been named Atlantic Hockey Goaltender of the Week twice and was named Atlantic Hockey’s Goaltender of the Month for November.
“My motivation and my goal comes from trying to win a championship and playing for the guy next to me,” Komm said.
His latest goaltender of the week honors came on Feb. 20, at the end of a six-game unbeaten streak. That streak couldn’t have come at a better time for the Falcons. It left them in a position to control their own destiny for playoff positioning.
But even with all the pressure surrounding in the last few weeks as the Falcons made their playoff push, Komm continued to play better and better.
“I think I perform a little better under pressure,” Komm said. “I like the pressure. I like knowing the fact that at any given time, if you make a save it might not only be a game changing save but also a playoff changing save.”
Soderquist feels that while there have been exterior pressures on Komm this year, he doesn’t feel any of it.
“Any pressure that he has, he puts on himself,” Soderquist said. “I think that any great athlete will put enough pressure on themselves, that he wasn’t worried about exterior pressures form anybody else or trying to earn his position. Day to day he puts all the pressure he needs on himself.”
It’s evident that Komm does play well under pressure. Since the beginning of February, Komm has lost just once in eight games. He also has surrendered more than two goals once.
And with Rank leaving school early to turn pro, the Falcons turned to Komm to lead the way. But even with Rank in school, Soderquist and the Falcons were relying on Komm.
“Deep down, I always knew he would emerge as the starting goaltender this year,” Soderquist said. “We knew his abilities and what he had to offer. We just had to make sure that he went out there and earn it and gain a little confidence. That’s all we were waiting for, to make sure his confidence level was where it needed to be.”
While Komm’s confidence is high, so is the team’s as a whole.
“We’re all confident in each other,” Komm said. “From the coaching staff all the way to the older classmen to the underclass men, we know that we’re a good team and we know on any given day we can beat any given team. It’s just a confidence level that we can play some top notch teams and stick with them and compete with them.”
And that confidence will have to carry, with the likes of RIT and Air Force lurking in the playoffs.