The Komets had 10 games remaining in the regular season. They won’t be played anytime soon.
The ECHL suspended its season today because of the coronavirus pandemic and will determine at a later date if resuming play is possible.
“As the ongoing developments regarding COVID-19 in North America continue and precautionary measures ensue to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the ECHL has suspended the 2019-20 season for the safety of our fans, players and employees,” a statement from the ECHL reads. “The ECHL and its member teams continue to work with national and local health officials and local governance to monitor the situation. In the interim, we encourage those in the ECHL community to take precautions and stay safe during this time.”
The Komets (31-23-8) had a game scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at Memorial Coliseum against the Toledo Walleye, which Wednesday become the ECHL’s only team to host a game in which fans weren’t allowed as a precaution to help contain COVID-19. The Walleye had been forced to close its doors to fans after a directive from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. Swiftly, professional and amateur sports events at all levels throughout the country were either postponed, called off completely or deemed they could only go on without large gatherings of fans.
“The suspension of the season, of course, means things will be under review and then a decision will be made later (if the season can continue),” Komets president Michael Franke said. “A cancellation, which could be forthcoming, you never know, would end the season and the playoffs. That has yet to be determined.”
Neither the Komets nor the ECHL provided information as to when restarting the season, or canceling it, could be discussed.
Details on what fans with tickets can do will come in the coming days from the Komets and Memorial Coliseum, Franke said.
Fort Wayne players will remain in town, Franke said, but will not practice. Players and staff will be paid as long as the league is under suspension.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that the entire world is dealing with right now,” Franke said. “We have to do what we are mandated to do by our league. As of today, the schedule has been suspended and we will adhere to that. There’s really not much more to say.”
The Komets were in third place in the Central Division – nine points back of second-place Toledo and six points up on fourth-place Indy – and looked as if they would get one of the division’s four playoff spots in Ben Boudreau’s first season as head coach.
The Komets led the ECHL in average attendance this season with 8,090 fans per game, including an announced crowd of 6,637 on Wednesday when they defeated the Wichita Thunder 7-2, paced by Brady Shaw’s and Brett McKenzie’s two goals apiece.
It seemed throughout today it was just a matter of time before the Double-A level ECHL halted its season. The NHL and Triple-A American Hockey League did so earlier in the day, though the ECHL, as an independently operated league, wasn’t necessarily required to follow their lead. Almost all ECHL teams are affiliated with NHL teams; the Komets are an affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and have a less-formal working agreement with the Los Angeles Kings.
While the Komets’ season had been up-and-down because of injuries, illnesses, call-ups and inconsistent play, the team had turned it on lately and won 10 of its last 14 games.
Shaw ranked seventh in league scoring with 27 goals and 62 points in 48 games. McKenzie had 23 goals and 60 points in 56 games. And Shawn Szydlowski had 15 goals and 56 points in 55 games.
Alan Lyszczarczyk was fifth among ECHL rookies in scoring with 19 goals and 46 points in 57 games.
The Komets had the league’s seventh-ranked offense (3.52 goals per game), the top-ranked power play (25.5%), and led the ECHL in penalty minutes (16.8 per game), as they chased their first championship since 2012 in the Central Hockey League.
The Komets were vying to make the ECHL playoffs for the seventh straight year, having reached the conference finals in 2016 and 2018.
They were knocked out of the 2019 playoffs in the first round by Toledo, after which Gary Graham was fired as coach.