The Journal Gazette
Friday, December 03, 2021 1:00 am

Komets won't cry over hardships

Boudreau wants club to keep things simple

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Somehow, despite all the injuries and call-ups and wackadoodle lineups they've had to use, the Komets remain tied for the Central Division lead with Toledo at 20 points apiece.

Coach Ben Boudreau has been careful to note that you just can't make excuses when it comes to these things, because every team is dealing with some amount of them, but even he must have been exasperated Wednesday night when the latest obstacle was a slew of positive COVID-19 tests preceding a 4-1 road loss to the Indy Fuel.

Gone were leading scorer Connor Jones, ECHL Goaltender of the Month Samuel Harvey, tough guy Chays Ruddy, assistant coach Olivier Legault and equipment manager Skylar Garver. Forward Matthew Barnaby was also in the COVID-19 safety protocols, though multiple sources said he's been testing negative.

“We've got half a coaching staff, since Olivier has got it. No equipment manager, since Skylar has got it. We're missing Connor Jones and our toughness and Sam Harvey, those are three key positions, and when you don't have your top guys it's tough,” said Boudreau, who has also lost to American Hockey League call-ups: captain Matthew Boudens, forward Drake Rymsha and playoff MVP Stephen Harper.

The injured list includes Oliver Cooper and Shawn Szydlowski.

“We've got a lot of real good forwards who are out right now, about 50% of our group,” said Boudreau, who has used as many as nine defensemen and as few as seven forwards in recent games, when a more typical ratio would be 10 forwards to six defensemen.

Here's the good news for the 9-5-2 Komets: Nine of their next 11 games are at Memorial Coliseum, where they are 5-1-1, starting with contests at 8 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the expansion Iowa Heartlanders, who are a league-worst 4-10-3.

“We always play well on home ice,” Komets forward Anthony Petruzzelli said. “We're excited to get back in 'The Jungle' and put on a little bit better product for our fans, bounce back from this little funk we're in. I think we'll be all right; everyone's in good spirits still and everyone wants to contribute.”

The Komets dropped their only previous meeting with the Heartlanders, 5-1 at the Coliseum on Nov. 21, when the lost bodies really started to lead to lost games. That night kicked off the 1-3-1 slump the Komets are currently on, but they haven't been crying hardship.

“It's a little bit of a tough go here, but we take it as we can and you've got to play through it no matter what. Everyone in the league is doing it right now,” Petruzzelli said.

So what will get them out of this slide? The consensus has been playing a more simple game, especially on offense where the Komets have averaged only two goals over the last five games. On Wednesday, the issue was eschewing easy shots for passes, something Boudreau would like solved tonight.

“We had glorious opportunities to score and we passed on them for better opportunities that didn't even end up with a shot on net, so that bit us in the rear end,” he said. “When we do have opportunities, we have to make them count.”

Tonight is Report Card Night, which means students can bring to the Coliseum box office a report card or a letter from a teacher showing an A or equivalent grade and get a free ticket to the game.

Komets vs. Iowa Heartlanders

When: 8 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Coliseum

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

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