The Komets wanted to play Sunday as if they were connected. Instead, they looked discombobulated.
They fell 5-1 in their first-ever meeting with the expansion Iowa Heartlanders, in front of 5,569 fans at Memorial Coliseum, on the heels of two impressive games in which the Komets, decimated by call-ups and injuries, defeated the Kalamazoo Wings 4-2 on Friday and Wheeling Nailers 3-2 on Saturday.
“Friday, we committed to a game plan and I was raving about how well we were committed to playing,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “Tonight, there was zero commitment to our game plan. We didn't simplify. I thought there were way too many individualistic plays and it ended up costing us.”
The Komets came in with the ECHL's No. 1 defense (2.18 goals against per game) and the Heartlanders with the worst (5.17), but things seemed immediately out of whack.
“They played a simple and very effective game,” Boudreau said of the Heartlanders (2-9-2, including a road record of 1-6-0). “They executed our game plan of just getting it deep and continuing to work. It was three (games in three days), we had to simplify, and there were way too many turnovers. I thought we played as a team full of individuals rather than as a team off five guys on the ice, or connected as we like to call them.”
Will Graber scored the lone goal for Fort Wayne (8-3-1, 5-1-0 at home).
“You have to give credit where credit is due. That (Iowa) team came in and executed a game plan,” defenseman Marcus McIvor said.
The Komets, who will take today off, play at Kalamazoo on Wednesday.
“We've just go to take the day off when we have it. We've got to be ready to come to work Tuesday and get to nitpicking the things we weren't doing too well,” McIvor said. “When we play as a five-man unit, and within our systems, we play a lot better. It's one of those things, we got a little off track tonight. Come Tuesday, we'll be ready to get back to work and get back to it.”
Sean Bonar stopped 31 of 36 shots in his first game for the Komets since Jan. 31, 2016. Iowa's Hunter Jones turned away 31 of 32 shots.
“We've got to get to work and get into some video and show some of our mistakes. We've got to learn from them,” Boudreau said. “This isn't going to be a punishment. But every mistake is a coaching opportunity. As a team, I know that we've got a great group of guys, and if we can learn from our mistakes then that's part of the process.”
The Heartlanders opened the scoring when Fedor Gordeev's shot from just inside the blue line was redirected by Yuki Miura at 6:42. On Iowa's 12th shot, during a power play at 12:06, Bryce Misley's shot from 40 feet out caromed off Fort Wayne players Matt Murphy and Zach Tolkinen then knuckled past Bonar.
Iowa took a 3-0 lead on its 15th shot, a chip of the puck from off the left post by Bryce Gervais at 16:20. Graber scored at 18:28 by flicking in the rebound of a Murphy shot.
Bonar's best work came 28 seconds into the second period, when he dived to his left to glove a backhand shot by Gervais. But Bonar was helpless at 16:36 to stop Adrien Beraldo's 15-foot shot. And Iowa's Ben Sokay made it 5-1 with a shot from the left circle.