FORT WAYNE – For a long while, the Komets looked as if they were playing their best hockey of the season. But the visiting Dayton Gems scored twice 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.
The Komets outshot the Gems, another former IHL team, 40-31. But they wound up with their fifth straight loss and have now been outscored 32-16 this season. That includes a 16-7 deficit at the Coliseum, where the Komets are 1-4-0.
The Komets came out energetically, and it paid off, except on the scoreboard.
They didn’t allow a shot in the first 11-plus minutes. 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. Onrushing defenseman Bobby 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.
The Komets soon got a power play to try to force overtime, but Curadeau and Thomas were both stopped on shots from point-blank range, as the fans jeered.
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.
Their next game will be Thanksgiving night against the Quad City Mallards at the 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.