It took the entire regular season and three playoff games, but the Komets' locker room was eerily silent Sunday.
No music was blaring. No smiles were exhibited.
The atmosphere was what you'd expect after the two-time defending champions lost 4-3 to the Port Huron Icehawks, who now lead the best-of-seven Turner Cup Semifinals 2-1 with the series heading back to Michigan.
"We're going to be OK," Fort Wayne forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock said. "We've got a lot of veterans on this team and all the rookies have confidence. We just need to go in there (at McMorran Arena) and steal one. It's hard to win a series without winning one on the road, anyways, so we've just got to go and take the next one and we'll have home-ice advantage again."
To what did the Komets' direct their ire for the Game 3 loss, which saw them squander an early two-goal lead? Their inability to stay out of the penalty box. They drew nine minor penalties in the game and allowed Port Huron, which has the IHL's top power-play unit, to score on 3 of 7 chances with the man-advantage.
"The thing that slows us down is taking minor penalties, one after another, and we don't learn from it. That cost us," Komets coach Al Sims said. "And it's not like they're in the defensive zone. The penalties were in the offensive zone, neutral zone, places where we shouldn't be taking penalties."
After the Komets went up 2-0 on goals from center Justin Hodgman and defenseman Guy Dupuis, whose turnover led to the 3-2 game-winning overtime goal from Mickael Bedard on Saturday at McMorran Arena, it was time for Port Huron defenseman Jamie Lovell to shine with back-to-back goals on shots from the point.
Right wing Matt Syroczynski put the Komets ahead 3-2 at 11:05 of the second period, when he accepted a pass from Hodgman and finished off a 2-on-1 rush from the left circle.
But the Icehawks got power-play goals from right wing Matt Auffrey, who capitalized on a great crossing pass from Mike Kinne, and forward Brandon Naurato, who picked up a rebound and blasted it past goaltender Tim Haun at 14:37 of the third period.
"If you want NHL playoffs, IHL playoffs, any playoffs – special teams are a huge thing," Komets defenseman Brandon Warner said. "If you give a team nine power plays, chances are they're going to get (some) goals off of them. It's a big thing. But that's why we play the game. Guys aren't going out there thinking, 'OK, I'm going to go take a penalty.' They're laying everything on the line and sometimes you just cross that line. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it goes."