Short-handed or at full strength, it’s become nearly impossible to predict the Komets.
On the heels of one of their most dominant performance of the season, they fell 4-2 to the Idaho Steelheads at Memorial Coliseum today.
Fort Wayne, which leads the ECHL in average attendance (8,071 per game), is now only 10-7-3 at the Coliseum.
(Video highlights from the game above.)
The Idaho Steelheads, who beat the Komets 3-2 at the Coliseum on Friday, were certainly more rested after the ECHL’s unforgiving scheduling gave them Saturday off in Fort Wayne. The Komets had to travel 5 hours each way to Wheeling, West Virginia, where they dominated the Nailers 6-1 on Saturday.
Beleaguered, injured and battling illnesses today, the Komets were without captain A.J. Jenks, all-star Shawn St-Amant, Taylor Ross, Brycen Martin, Brad Morrison and Matthew Boudens, and the Komets played one man short of a full 18-player lineup.
But that’s just an excuse after Fort Wayne (19-13-5) lost for the 10th time in the last 13 games, going 3-7-3 along the way.
“I think we’ve got some competitive guys who hate losing,” said Shawn Szydlowski, who had an assist and two fights. “That can ruin a night, ruin a weekend. It’s tough right now, but we’ve got to battle through it. We’ve got a lot of guys in this locker room and no one doubts what we can do, everyone believes what we can do, and we’re looking forward to getting some bodies back in the lineup and get back to the way we started off the season.”
We’re 37 games into the 72-game season and the Komets have only two winning streaks of three or more games: three straight victories over Kalamazoo on Nov. 8 to 15; and the six-game streak from Nov. 23 to Dec. 6.
Coach Ben Boudreau, however, said more than half the players who were in the lineup were either sick or injured.
That included goaltender Dylan Ferguson, who couldn’t continue after the first period because of illness, meaning Cole Kehler came into the game and Patrick Munson was called from the stands to back up with the Komets down 2-0.
“Guys have got splints. Guys are coughing things up. Our goalies are throwing things up. It’s unbelievable right now,” Boudreau said.
Ferguson stopped 8 of 10 shots in the first period, allowing goals on consecutive shots to Zack Andrusiak off a redirection and Brett Supinski on a 25-foot shot. It’s the second time this season Ferguson came out after the first period because of illness.
“I thought our mindset was pretty good,” Boudreau said. “The first two goals against came right off our sticks, as far as turnovers in our own zone. No schedule or no sickness are to blame for that.”
Kehler stopped 19 of 21 shots. Idaho’s Tomas Sholl stopped 32 of 34.
Jermaine Loewen got to the rebound of a Szydlowski shot to cut the Idaho lead to 2-1 at 6:54 of the second period.
The Steelheads regained the two-goal lead with a power-play goal at 11:47, when Max Coatta, stationed at the left post, was able to shoot into an open net. Shortly after fighting Szydlowski, Idaho’s Vala made it 4-1 with a shot from the left circle at 16:52.
Things erupted 2:56 into the third period, when Szydlowski fought Nolan Gluchowski and, as the linesmen were escorting them off the ice, Fort Wayne’s Kyle Haas began pounding away on Kyle Schempp. Haas was given a game misconduct for instigating a secondary altercation.
It gave Fort Wayne some life. Brady Shaw’s backhand pass through the crease set up Brett McKenzie for a goal at 5:01.
“We battled to the end. We talked about it, we’re a resilient group, a pretty proud group, and we wanted to make sure we battled all the way to the end,” Boudreau said. “It was pretty evident that we care out there. … You try to take a positive out of every negative right now. The negative is that we lost 2 of 3 this weekend to the same team, and they’ve beaten us four times in a row.
“(Idaho) is a pretty stingy group. They don’t give up many shots. They make you chip the puck in all night. The positive is a lot of the guys rallied. There was no quit out there. I love what Haas and Szyd did right there. It shows they care that they were willing to put their faces on the line. That team was hooting and hollering, and I thought they got what they deserved. Next time, they’ll know to keep their mouths shut and to win with pride.”