FORT WAYNE – Time is running out if the Komets want to win the North Division title in their first ECHL season.
Both Fort Wayne and division-leading Cincinnati have 22 games remaining in the regular season, though the Cyclones have an eight-point lead with Toledo wedged right in the middle.
The Komets and Cyclones play tonight at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati
Despite the Komets’ strong road record of 15-9-2 and the Cyclones’ mediocre home mark of 13-9-2, Fort Wayne has been reeling. It lost 2 of 3 games to the Colorado Eagles last week at Loveland, Colo., including a lopsided 6-1 loss in the last game Saturday.
Goaltender Charlie Effinger had been in line to play in a sixth straight game, but he won’t be there tonight because of a death in the family. While he’s not been to blame for the most part, Effinger’s statistics have dropped to 9-10-1 with a 3.64 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.
Marco Cousineau is going to join the team in Cincinnati and should start in goal, Komets general manager David Franke said.
Cousineau, who just completed his second stint of the season with Norfolk of the American Hockey League, is 3-5-0 with a 3.41 GAA and a .889 save percentage for the Komets. Kenny Reiter, the reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Month, is up with Bridgeport.
The backup goalie tonight will be IPFW’s Larkin Saalfrank, who saw action in the preseason with Fort Wayne.
Franke said recently re-signed defenseman Jamie Milam will make his season debut tonight for the Komets, though they will again be without defenseman Scott Kishel (hand), who has two goals, five points and a plus-7 rating in 43 games.
The addition of Milam should help the Komets’ special teams.
Their power play, which has six goals in its last 71 opportunities, has dropped to 22nd among the ECHL’s 23 teams with an efficiency of 12.8 percent. It’s only slightly worse on the road (12 percent) than it is at Memorial Coliseum (13.8) percent.
And the penalty-killing unit ranks 18th at 79.5 percent.
The good news is Fort Wayne has won 4 of 7 games against the Cyclones, and the Komets are 2-0 in Cincinnati.
Center Brett Smith has two goals and eight points against the Cyclones, while center Jean-Michel Rizk has three goals and seven points.
Notes: The annual Comcast Report Card Night is Saturday at the Coliseum. Students who receive at least one A, or equivalent, grade get a free ticket to the game against Evansville. Tickets can be claimed any time in advance of the game at the Coliseum ticket office, and students are encouraged to do so early because it’s typically a large crowd.