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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
The Komets’ Colin Chaulk thinks the team needs to be more gritty when playing at home. The team is 7-9-3 at Memorial Coliseum this season.

Yesteryear’s ‘Jungle’ not happy home for K’s

The Komets have been mystifyingly mediocre at Memorial Coliseum this season.

“Why? I don’t know,” center Colin Chaulk said. “I don’t know what it is.”

What it is, most certainly, is strange.

During the past three seasons, in which the Komets won two regular-season championships and three playoff titles in the IHL, Fort Wayne was 82-19-13 at the Coliseum.

This season, their first in the 18-team CHL, the Komets’ league-worst record of 13-18-5 includes a home mark of 7-9-3.

“Until we start winning in this building, we’re not going to make any imprint on the standings,” said coach Al Sims, whose Komets are 1-3-3 in their last seven home games.

The Komets’ inability to finish strong in Coliseum games is a concern. They have lost three of six games they’ve led after the first period and three of seven they’ve led after two periods.

They’re 4-7-3 when outshooting opponents at the Coliseum.

Sims was asked whether the pressure of playing in front of an average of 7,388 fans – the largest attendance average in the league and third largest in minor hockey behind Hershey (9,238) and Manitoba (8,205) – was having a negative effect.

“(Most of these) guys have played in this building for three or four years. That’s not an excuse,” Sims said. “We have the best crowds and the best building (in the league), so there’s no excuse for our team to not come up with some wins against teams we know we can beat.”

The Komets have 30 games remaining, 17 at the Coliseum. They trail Evansville by two points for the eighth and final spot in the Turner Conference.

“Until we start winning in this building, it’s going to be a tough climb for us in the standings,” Sims said.

Chaulk, the captain, said the Komets aren’t playing with enough grit at the Coliseum.

“We’re not as dirty. We’re not as ugly. We’re not as gritty, from what I’ve seen recently here at home,” he said. “Get the puck. Get it out (of the defensive zone). When a team starts to back off and stops putting so much pressure on you, now we can make plays.

“I don’t want to do it either; I don’t want to run the puck (up) the boards. But if (carrying the puck) is not in your skill set, get the puck on the glass, get it out.”

Note: The Komets opted not to re-sign left wing Konstantin Shafranov, 42, who retired after last season. “It’s mainly numbers,” general manager David Franke said. “I’ve got enough forwards, and we’ve picked up on offense and on our power play. (The decision) was more on our part. And I’m also not sure he felt like he could make the impact right now that we’d have liked him to.”