FORT WAYNE – The Komets were playing as the first-place team in the CHL for the first time this season. But they didn’t look like a first-place team Friday night.
There were myriad turnovers, a lackadaisical effort and lots of long-range shooting in a 2-1 loss to the last-place Bloomington Blaze in front of 7,140 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
We did everything yesterday in practice to prepare them for this team, Komets coach Al Sims said. We warned them before this game what they were getting into. We just turned it on too late.
Wichita, only one point back of the Komets (22-10-1), played late Friday at Rapid City, S.D. The Blaze improved to 12-20-2.
We practiced hard and had a couple days practice (after the All-Star break), Komets defenseman Frankie DeAngelis said. We just didn’t come prepared. It’s always a close game with these guys, how they trap and just bounce on opportunities that are basically our mistakes and they capitalize on them.
An early turnover by Tom Mele set up the first-period breakaway goal for Bloomington’s Jordy Trottier, who was cut by the Komets during training camp. Artem Podshendyalov answered in the second period after Brett Smith set him up from the right boards.
But the only goal of the third period came from Bloomington’s Kyle Laughlin, who was set up from behind the net by Travis Granbois.
Fort Wayne goaltender Nick Boucher stopped 21 of 23 shots. Bloomington’s Brian Mahoney-Wilson stopped 41 of 42.
We didn’t come out hard, DeAngelis said. We’ve just got to be better, especially against a team like this coming to our home rink.
There wasn’t much hitting, but there were particularly rough plays from Bloomington’s Ryan Palmer. He drove Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock headfirst into the boards during the first period. And in the third, he landed an elbow to the head of Smith, who was on his knees at the time.
Referee Brent Coulombe gave only minor penalties on the plays.
Fort Wayne was scoreless on seven power plays, including a full two minutes of 5-on-3 in the first period. Bloomington was 0 for 3.
The Komets play tonight at Evansville. The last two games between the teams, both Fort Wayne victories, included a total of six fights and 128 penalty minutes.
It’s a huge game, DeAngelis said. We’ve got to make up for tonight. We’ve got to stick to our game plan, come out flying, just move the puck to our forwards, get stuff on net, get traffic and hopefully we come out with a win.
Note: Boucher and Smith weren’t sure they’d be able to play Friday after their trip back from the All-Star Game in Prescott Valley, Ariz., took 13 hours Thursday. There was a two-hour bus ride to Phoenix, where a flight was delayed, and then a cancellation in Chicago. So they drove through the snow from there. But their equipment didn’t arrive until about five hours before the game.