Following a season-ending 10-6 victory over the visiting Florida Tropics Sunday afternoon at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Kansas City Comets coach Kim Roentved emerged from the locker room with a smile on his face.
It was not a common sight this season, as his team missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years while wrapping up a frustrating 7-15 campaign.
“That’s the team I wanted to see on the field all season,” Roentved said, after assistant coach Leo Gibson turned in a hat trick and assist and captain Bryan Perez added a goal and two assists.
“We got up, we got down, we made a strong comeback and finished strong and were able to get a victory in our final game, which was very important. We lost our last two games in overtime, and the boys were wondering what it was going to take to win a game – and I told them, it would take a performance like the one you saw today to finish with a win that would put a smile on everyone’s face.”
The scoring started off five minutes into the opening quarter as Comets forward Anthony Grant took the ball across the middle and hit a shot that went high and bounced off the glass above the goal. Seeing the play develop, Gibson jumped into the middle and was in perfect position to head the ricochet back into the net.
Florida fought back and sent waves of players toward goalkeeper Mark Saxby, the rookie who joined the team late in the season and picked up his second career win.
In the ninth minute of the first quarter, Saxby stopped a Florida shot, but his deflection went right to another Tropics player who tried to score, but Saxby was there again to make the save. The third time was not as fortunate though as Saxby’s deflection fell right at Freddy Moojen’s feet, and he tapped the loose ball in for a goal.
Newcomers Troy McKerrell and Mirko Sandivari then made their presence felt. McKerrell assisted on Pat Kelley’s goal and Sandivari scored on a Perez assist to give Kansas City a 3-1 advantage.
With a Anthony Arico goal late in the first quarter and a Louis Coutinho early in the second tied it, but Perez scored at the 8:43 mark for a 4-3 Comets lead.
Moojen struck again at 10:28 to tie it 4-4 heading into halftime.
“We talked about wanting to be the aggressors and getting the lead back in the third period,” Roentved said, “but that didn’t happen.”
The Tropics jumped out on the Comets early in the third quarter, with Ricardo de Queiroz Diegues and Raphael Schlemper scoring two quick goals and taking a 6-4 lead.
“When they took that 6-4 lead, we knew we had some work to do,” Gibson said. “It was so important for us, individually and as a team, to finish the season strong for our fans, our team, for everyone. We could not let them keep scoring and we knew we had to step up our game.”
They did, by scoring the final six goals of the game.
Kiel Williams scored on a pass from Gibson; Williams then returned the favor for a Gibson just 17 seconds later. Anthony Grant put the Comets up 7-6 after rookie Tim Kloster won the ball at midfield and outmuscled his defender to the right side, leaving Grant alone for the easy tap-in.
Gibson finished off his hat trick a minute after Grant’s goal to give the Comets an 8-6 lead heading into the final period.
Early in the fourth, Kansas City was awarded a restart opportunity from the top of the arc. Gibson ran toward the ball, seemingly lining up his shot, but at the last second dished to his right, where Lucas Rodriguez was waiting. He buried the shot to put the Comets ahead 9-6 less than a minute into the quarter.
Adam James scored the final Comets goal of the season at 14:05.
When asked if he would take some time off, or immediately start the rebuilding process, Roentved just smiled.
“I have been thinking about next season since game one of this season,” he said. “We have a lot of great young talent, and veteran players we hope to build the team around next year. A bounce here or there and we’re in the playoffs. It didn’t happen this year, and that’s something we’re going to correct next year.”