A video montage got the 7,337 fans at Memorial Coliseum fired up Friday. It featured a man reading one newspaper article after another about the Komets’ horrendous play this season.
Then, the man stood up and revealed himself to be newly re-signed center Colin Chaulk, the team’s four-time MVP, in uniform, and he took to the ice to be the Komets’ savior.
But today’s headline is, undoubtedly, a familiar one as the Komets lost 3-1 to the Evansville IceMen, dropping Fort Wayne’s record to 9-16-3, worst in the 18-team Central Hockey League.
A savior Chaulk was not, not on this night.
I could be better, that’s for sure, but so could the team, said Chaulk, who was scoreless, had one shot on goal and won 9 of 12 faceoffs.
It was Chaulk’s first game of the season with the Komets – he played 26 with HC Alleghe in Italy – and he had already been selected the team’s captain by coach Al Sims.
Strangely, the Komets’ fate was worse than it had been the previous two weeks, when they went 4-0-2.
You’re always going to feel pressure coming back when you’ve had success and the team’s had success, said Chaulk, who led the Komets to four championships in seven seasons between 2002 and 2010 in the United and International Hockey leagues. If they were winning or losing, you don’t want to be the guy to make it worse. Here we were undefeated in six and we lose when I come back. I wouldn’t read too much into this. It was almost a no-win situation, unless you come out with two goals and two assists and the team wins 6-1.
Evansville (11-18-5) came in with a four-point lead over the Komets for the eighth and final playoff spot from the Turner Conference, but the IceMen had won only two of their previous 18 games. Their newest acquisition, goaltender Jeff Harvey, who arrived Thursday after a trade with Texas, finished with 26 saves.
He made acrobatic stops on shots from point-blank range by Tab Lardner, Artem Podshendyalov, Sean O’Connor and Derek Patrosso, keeping the game scoreless until Evansville’s Mario Larocque netted a shot from the right circle during a 5-on-3 power play at 14:42 of the second period.
Defenseman Jordan Little’s shot from the left circle made it 2-0 at 18:08 and, one minute later, left wing Brian Bicek skated in on a 2-on-2 rush, cut across the zone and scored into a relatively open net for a short-handed goal.
The Komets were without alternate captains Leo Thomas (ankle) and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock (leg), plus defenseman Brandon Warner (shoulder). The temporary alternates were defenseman Guy Dupuis, who had been stripped of the captaincy Dec. 14, and Lardner.
Dupuis netted the Komets’ goal, during a power play 21 seconds into the third period, with a 45-foot shot.
Chaulk looked OK. It looked like Chaulker, Sims said. I think he’s out of shape. But it’s been two weeks off the ice for him and it’s not going to come back, especially from the Italian League to this league, there’s a big difference and it’s going to take him awhile to get back to the game he wants to play.