MUSKEGON, Mich. – The Komets didn’t take to the ice Sunday looking to settle any scores – they were too banged up to even contemplate retaliation – so they set out to try to win a game.
And they failed.
Right wing David Hukalo had a chance to force overtime but his shot clanked off the crossbar with two seconds remaining, and the Komets lost 2-1 to the Muskegon Lumberjacks in front of 2,783 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
As a team, we need to compete better in the first two periods. Especially to win on the road against a team like Muskegon, you need to play a complete game, said right wing Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who scored the lone goal of the third period after Brandon Warner came out from behind the Lumberjacks’ net and sent him a crossing pass.
Warner, normally a defenseman, was playing forward, and Hukalo, who had shoulder surgery in the offseason, unexpectedly return to the lineup for the banged-up Komets.
Left wing Konstantin Shafranov couldn’t play because of a concussion suffered from a Greg Labenski elbow in Fort Wayne’s 2-1 victory over Dayton on Saturday. Center Travis Whitehead was limited to a few shifts because of a knee injury. Defenseman Danko Mironovic missed a second straight game with a virus. And defenseman/forward Blair Stayzer couldn’t return after injuring his shoulder during a first period fight with Jason Lawmaster.
That was the only emotional carryover from the previous meeting between the teams, a 3-1 Komets victory Oct. 31, which saw two brawls and resulted in a 15-game suspension for Fort Wayne’s Brad MacMillan and 12 games for Muskegon’s Robin Big Snake, both for leaving the penalty box to fight and being overly physical with officials.
Before the game, we mentioned it, Just make sure if they challenge you in warmups or while coming off the ice, don’t get involved,’ Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. We’ve only got (15) guys at the start and then even the five minute (penalty) to Stayzer hurt us. It was important that we didn’t get involved in that stuff.
There were similar words spoken in the Lumberjacks’ locker room.
What happened, you know, it happened and it’s hockey. It was more hype, I think, from the outside than what the players felt, said forward John DiPace, who scored 42 seconds into the game with a one-timer into a wide-open net, after IHL leading-scorer Robin Bouchard set him up.
The league’s reigning MVP, center Todd Robinson, scored the game-winner at 19:24 of the second period with a slapshot from 40 feet out during a 5-on-3 power play.
The Komets (7-3-0), who downed Muskegon (8-3-1) in the Turner Cup Finals last season, have scored only 13 goals in their last five games, though they’ve won four of those games.
As long as we play well defensively, I think the offense will take care of itself, Schrock said. But we do have to bear down and bury our chances. We hit two posts tonight and if you look at it that way, it could have been 3-2 (in favor of) us.
Fort Wayne goaltender Tim Haun stopped 14 shots. Muskegon’s Sebastien Centomo made 20 saves.