For a long while, the Komets looked as if they were playing their best hockey of the season. But the visiting Dayton Gems netted two goals in the final period Saturday night and escaped with a 2-1 victory, in front of 7,388 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
The result was all too familiar for the Komets, who are a 2-8-1 in their inaugural season in the Central Hockey League. That's the worst record in the 18-team league, after the Komets won the last three championships in the IHL.
The Komets outshot the Gems (8-3-1), another former IHL team, 40-31. But the Komets wound up with their fifth straight loss and have now been outscored 32-16.
That includes a 16-7 scoring deficit at the Coliseum, where the Komets are 1-4-0.
"It's the same old story," said defenseman Bobby Phillips, who scored the Komets' lone goal. "We just can't bury it. Every game is close. We've just got to find a way to finish. We're getting crazy shots, all kinds of chances, but it winds up the same story."
The Komets came out energetically, at both ends of the ice, and it paid off – except on the scoreboard.
They didn't allow a shot in the first 11 minutes, 3 seconds of play. And in the first period they allowed only three even-strength shots. But it remained scoreless at the first intermission, since Dayton goaltender Jeff Jakaitis stopped all 17 shots he faced, including close-range attempts by Leo Thomas, Mathieu Curadeau, Sean O'Connor and P.C. Drouin.
It wasn't until the 15:06 mark of the second period that a goal was finally scored, during a Fort Wayne power play. Center Chris Francis tipped a pass to O'Connor in the left circle, and his shot squeaked between the legs of Jakaitis. The onrushing Phillips was there to chip it into an open net for his first goal of the season.
With a power play of their own, the Gems answered at 8:17 of the third period. Forward Erik Boisvert bested goaltender Nick Boucher with a wraparound from behind the net, capitalizing on the Drouin tripping penalty, to tie it at 1.
The Gems went ahead at 14:09, when defenseman Paul Ferraro blasted a shot from just inside the blue line and forward Kyle Bochek was there to sweep the rebound past Boucher for a 2-1 lead.
The Komets soon got a power play to try and force overtime, but Curadeau and Thomas were both stopped on shots from point-blank range, as the fans jeered.
"I thought we played really well for three periods," Komets coach Al Sims said. "I thought we came out hard. That was the best first period we've had in a long time. We didn't get rewarded for it.
"But it's tough to win with one goal. Our best players get golden opportunities and can't get them anywhere but (the goalie's) chest. That's what it's gotten to. Mathieu Curadeau goes in with a little time left, just wide open, and this is a (23)-goal scorer in the (ECHL) last season, and he just can't hit him anywhere but the chest protector. It's tough."
The Komets came into this weekend with an edict from management: Improve greatly over the next five games or mass changes will be made. So far, the Komets' performances have improved, but the results haven't with back-to-back home losses.
"We've got to think about what we'll do over the weekend here," Sims said. "We'll address it on Monday and see if new faces will make a difference or just stick with the same group. Obviously, we're getting shots and playing hard. I thought the effort's been there."
Both teams were 1 for 5 on power plays.
The Komets' next game will be Thanksgiving night against the Quad City Mallards at Memorial Coliseum.
Note: A night after scoring a goal, defenseman Brandon Warner was out of the Fort Wayne lineup because of a bruised foot, suffered while blocking a shot in a 3-2 loss to Arizona. Also out of the lineup: defenseman Danko Mironovic and forward Olivier Legault. … Dayton is coached by Fort Wayne native and former Komets goaltender Brian Gratz. … The referee, for a second straight game, was Dan Dreger.