The Komets hope 2020 treats them better than 2019.
An 8-4 loss to the Toledo Walleye tonight extended Fort Wayne’s winless streak to eight games (0-5-3).
It was the most goals given up by Fort Wayne in a game this season.
(Video highlights are above.)
After last spring’s disappointing first-round exit by Toledo, and the ensuing coaching change from Gary Graham to Ben Boudreau, there’s not much evidence right now that an extended playoff run is on the horizon for the Komets.
The Komets are 15-12-5, four points back of the Walleye (18-9-3) for second place in the Central Division and nine points back of Cincinnati.
Toledo has won all four meetings this season with Fort Wayne.
The Komets’ current winless streak is their longest since joining the ECHL in the summer of 2012.
The Komets donned special “Blackout” jerseys that were raffled off to fans attending the 63rd New Year’s Eve game in the team’s 68th season of play. Fort Wayne has an all-time record on Dec. 31 of 41-17-5, including a 5-8-0 mark against teams from Toledo.
Gage Torrel scored twice for the Komets. Shane Berschbach had a hat trick for the Walleye.
There was a buzz to begin the night, because a sellout crowd of 10,479 was on hand and because the Komets introduced A.J. Jenks as their new captain when he took to the ice for the opening faceoff. The Komets had used only alternate captains this season in Jenks, Shawn Szydlowski, Jason Binkley and Brady Shaw.
However, it took only 1:39 and one shot on goal for the Walleye to stifle that energy. A whiffed shot by Fort Wayne’s Taylor Doherty set off a 2-on-1 rush in the other direction and former NHL player T.J. Hensick scored for a 1-0 lead.
Toledo’s goaltender, Billy Christopoulos, thwarted shots from point-blank range by Szydlowski and Jenks in the ensuing minutes to maintain the lead.
Toledo’s Josh Kestner had a breakaway while his team was shorthanded at 6:10, but hit the post.
Fort Wayne’s Torrel tied it by spinning from the right boards, taking advantage of a screen in front and sending the puck underneath Christopoulos at 12:10.
But the Walleye answered on its seventh shot; Berschbach skated from the blue line to behind the net and beat goalie Cole Kehler on a wraparound at 15:41. Toledo’s eighth shot saw another goal from Troy Loggins, who attacked from center ice, slithered through the entirety of the Fort Wayne defense and made it 3-1 by snapping a shot high on Kehler at 16:30.
Kehler was pulled after the first period – he stopped 5 of 8 shots – and replaced by Dylan Ferguson.
The first two shots Ferguson faced, however, resulted in another Toledo goal – Justin Buzzeo off a rebound at 1:10 into the second period.
But a wild goal saw the Komets break the momentum at 4:38. Toledo’s Charle-Edouard D’Astous was skating out from behind his own net during a power play, thinking no one was defending him, and Szydlowski suddenly spun a poked the puck out of his grasp and into the back of the net, cutting the Walleye lead to 4-2.
After Toledo’s Kyle Bonis scored a power-play goal, Fort Wayne’s Shaquille Merasty finished off a 2-on-1 rush at 17:10 to cut the Walleye’s lead to 5-3.
But Berschbach’s slapshot from the left circle 2:47 into the third period gave Toledo a 6-3 lead, though Fort Wayne’s Torrel answered at 8:49.
Ferguson stopped 15 of 19 shots. Christopoulos stopped 31 of 35.
The Komets face the Indy Fuel 7:30 p.m. Friday at Indianapolis and return to the Coliseum on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Kalamazoo Wings.