When things aren't going well, the Komets can usually count on the annual New Year's Eve game – and the huge Memorial Coliseum crowd that comes with it – to break them out of their doldrums.
Not the case tonight.
The Komets were demolished 9-4 by the Toledo Walleye, in front of 10,103 fans.
The Komets had been 9-0-1 in their 10 previous games on New Year's Eve and, actually, they had been playing OK coming into the night with back-to-back victories.
But this season – the Komets' first in the ECHL – has been anything but uplifting as they've gone 16-14-2 after winning four championships in their last five seasons in the IHL and CHL.
"We were down 5-3 and we wanted to put some pressure on them in the third period and give ourselves a chance to win," coach Al Sims said, "and obviously we opened ourselves up for some easy chances. They converted and they got the job done. We struggled to get the puck in their zone and our game is playing in the offensive zone."
The Komets' home record is now 7-9-0. (Click to see pictures from the game.)
Prior to the game, the NHL's Anaheim Ducks recalled Josh Brittain, who had 13 goals and 27 points in 31 games with the Komets, and reassigned him to Norfolk of the higher-level American Hockey League.
Goaltender Marco Cousineau was returned to Fort Wayne from Norfolk.
There has been speculation the NHL lockout could end Wednesday, and the Komets believe that's why so many of their players have been called up.
To replace Brittain, the Komets signed center Brayden Metz, who had been with Fort Wayne in training camp and had since scored a whopping 17 goals and 46 points in 25 games with Dayton of the lower-level Federal Hockey League.
It was back and forth early on, as the Komets played their fourth game in five nights.
Toledo (18-13-2) went up 1-0 when Joey Rogers sent a pass from behind the Fort Wayne net and Kyle Rogers banged it home. But the Komets' Jean-Michel Rizk answered with a breakaway goal, set up by Brent Henley pass that was about 90 feet in length.
After Andrej Nestrasil regained the lead for Toledo, Brett Smith had maybe the prettiest play of the season for Fort Wayne. He banked the puck off the boards, steered around a defender to regain control of it, then circled the net and sent a pass to the blue line to set up Scott Kishel for his first professional goal.
But in the second period, the Walleye got three straight goals – from Terry Broadhurst, Wes O'Neill and Nestrasil (power play) – before a couple of fights (Stephon Thorne vs. Doug Clarkson and Brent Henley vs. Phil Orsekovic) got the Komets going for a short spell.
Matt Firman trimmed the lead to two goals by poking in a rebound at 17:43 of the second period.
Fort Wayne goalie Kenny Reiter was yanked after allowing four goals on 24 shots, and his replacement, Charlie Effinger, went on to stop 14 of 19 shots.
Toledo's Jordan Pearce stopped 28 of 32.
Travis Novak's goal off a rebound, on a power play, gave Toledo a 6-3 lead in the third period. Eric Giosa responded with a goal, off a redirection, but the Walleye then surged with goals from Novak, Adam Hobson and Joey Martin.
"We missed a lot of coverages in our zone," said Sims, whose Komets are now 37-14-5 in New Year's Eve games at the Coliseum.
The nine goals were a season high for the Walleye and the most given up by the Komets.
Notes: The Komets were without captain Colin Chaulk (foot), forward Matt Kennedy (groin) and Cousineau (healthy). … The only Anaheim/Norfolk players still with Fort Wayne are Kennedy, Cousineau, Ryan Hegarty and Garrett Klotz.