The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 11, 2020 12:00 am

Komets stumbled over the blue line

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Komets’ biggest problems tonight, in a 3-2 loss to the Idaho Steelheads, were around the offensive blue line. They were getting happy feet, getting indecisive or too cute, and it led to failures to establish the zone or to turnovers.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that.

“(The offense) wasn’t there,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “It really wasn’t there. It was frustrating. … It’s one of those ones where (the Komets players) were so hot last weekend in winning both games that they got a little frustrated and started trying to do it themselves instead of using teammates. That resulted in a lot of offensive-zone blue-line turnovers. It was a frustrating game.

“We were trying hard, we just weren’t trying smart. Our mistakes kept mounting and mounting and mounting.”

(Video highlights from the game are above.)

Players talk about the need to “get pucks deep” until they’re blue in the face, but games like this are why they do so.

“Obviously, (offense) comes from us shooting the puck and that starts with us getting the puck in deep,” said Anthony Petruzzelli, who scored twice for the Komets on a night they were outshot 34-19. “Idaho did a great job of holding the blue line tonight. We were talking about trying to get pucks in deep and it’s just something we didn’t execute and that’s what hurt us.”

There was praise for Petruzzelli and his linemates, Stephen Baylis and Gage Torrel, and for goaltender Patrick Munson, who again looked terrific in this one. Newcomer Drake Rymsha also showed a lot. There wasn’t a ton beyond that, though, and now the Komets have a tough weekend – 7 p.m. Saturday at Wheeling, West Virginia, then back to the Coliseum for a 5 p.m. Sunday game against the Steelheads, who get to vegetate in Fort Wayne on Saturday.

“We’ve been working out a few kinks here,” said Petruzzelli, whose Komets (17-13-5) are 2-6-3 in their last 11 games. “But I think we’re on track. It’s about getting those little details. Once we dial those in, I think we’ll be OK.”

Connor Bleackley scored twice as the Steelheads (21-12-5) won for the ninth time in their last 12 games and improved to 3-1-0 against the Komets, who also turned the puck over plenty in their own zone and took some ill-timed penalties.

It was the Steelheads’ first game at the Coliseum, even though both teams have been in the ECHL since 2012-13, and they didn’t allow Fort Wayne to get its second shot on goal until 15:10 of the first period. That’s when Baylis’ pass from behind the Idaho net set up Petruzzelli, who was camped just outside the crease, for a one-timer and a 1-0 lead.

Munson, who played a third straight game after being third on the depth chart, kept the Komets up 1-0 with a slew of saves. That included two stops on Matt Ustaski, who was stationed in front of the net, at 10:42.

The Steelheads tied it at 16:49, when Bleackley scored off a rebound with Fort Wayne’s Brett McKenzie in the penalty box for interference. Bleackley made it 2-1 Idaho by scoring off a redirection 2:40 into the third period, just seconds after he was thwarted by Munson at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.

Petruzzelli answered by scoring off a rebound at 5:11.

It didn’t take long for Idaho to regain its lead. Jermaine Loewen took a tripping penalty at 5:21 and Jeff King, a former Komets player, scored on a 50-foot slapshot during the ensuing power play at 5:37.

Idaho scored on 2 of 7 power plays. Fort Wayne was 1 for 5.

Notes: Defenseman Max Gottlieb returned to the Komets from Ontario of the American Hockey League. Gottlieb has three goals and 19 points in 27 games for Fort Wayne, including an assist Friday. With Ontario, he was scoreless in one game. … The ECHL chose Andrew Bruggeman, who called the Komets’ game, and Sean MacFarlane to referee the All-Star Classic. Chuck Schamel and Christopher Williams will be the linesmen Jan. 22 at Wichita, Kansas. Shawn St-Amant, who is currently injured, was selected as the Komets’ all-star. … Also out of the Fort Wayne lineup Friday were captain A.J. Jenks (illness), Brycen Martin, Brad Morrison, Taylor Ross, Will Petschenig and goalie Cole Kehler. … The Wichita Thunder signed Shaquille Merasty, who was waived by the Komets this week.


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