FORT WAYNE – Fans of the Komets are used to this routine: Get pumped up for the season, revel in the successes of the past and then get scorched in the opener.
There was a 30-minute pre-game gala Friday night at Memorial Coliseum, which included introductions of legendary Fort Wayne players, mascot Icy D. Eagle riding in on a hovercraft, the raising of a championship banner, presentation of rings and one last lap around the rink with the CHL’s Presidents’ Cup.
Then, the Komets got a lesson in how ECHL hockey is played. They lost 4-1 to the Kalamazoo Wings, in front of 10,091 fans in the 61st opener in franchise history.
We came out, we played hard. But guys are still feeling each other out, said forward Brandon Marino, who scored Fort Wayne’s goal by blasting a rebound past goaltender Joel Martin 9:12 into the third period on a power play.
This is one of those things. It’s not how we wanted to start the year. But we can’t dwell on it. We’ve got to move on and get ready for (today’s game at Evansville).
Season-opening letdowns are nothing new at the Coliseum.
In 2010, on the heels of an IHL championship, the Komets got walloped 4-0 by the CHL-champion Rapid City Rush. Last year, Fort Wayne fell 5-0 to Evansville, but the Komets went on to get their fourth Cup in five years.
I think the opening-night jitters are normal for young guys, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. Ryan Hegarty had the puck on his stick and the next thing you know, it’s in the net (with an Eric Kattelus goal).
That’s a rookie mistake and something you have to live with until these kids get better, but Hegarty came back and hit the crossbar. He almost got that one back himself. But things like that won’t happen a week or two from now.
Kalamazoo also got goals from Prab Rai, who banked it off Fort Wayne’s Daniel Nycholat from behind the net, Darren Archibald and Elgin Reid, whose shot caromed off a Fort Wayne skate and into the net.
Goalie Charlie Effinger stopped 21 of 25 shots in two periods. Kenny Reiter stopped all four in the third. Martin stopped 25 of 26 for the Wings.
The Komets’ roster consists of 18 active players and three on reserve – goalie Marco Cousineau, defenseman Scott Kishel and forward Eric Schneider – though they can carry 20 players and three reserves after the ECHL added another spot this week because of the NHL lockout. Cousineau was assigned by the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks on Friday, as was forward Josh Brittain, but Komets general manager David Franke said he’s not worried about having three goalies.
We’re not the only team in the ECHL with three goalies. There’s just such an influx of players, Franke said. I’m not interested in moving anybody right now. We’re just getting started here and see how it all goes.
Notes: The Komets are 38-18-5 in season openers, 32-25-4 in home openers. They released defenseman Kyle Atkins and re-added defenseman Daniel Nycholat. ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna attended the game.