CINCINNATI -- At the end of the day, it was about the Komets' inability to play a full 60 minutes of good hockey in any game of the series. Tonight, in the 4-1 season-ending loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones, they played more like 20 minutes of good hockey.
Check out the video highlights above. The Wade Megan goal was sick.
Still, the feeling was that, considering where the Komets were just a couple months ago, it was a successful run to get to the sixth game of the conference finals.
This isn't to say there isn't much to be improved upon. I will have lots of coverage in the coming days on the state of the Komets, but I can tell you this team really feels like it built a strong nucleus for the future.
And they were very complimentary of the Cyclones.
“We came out flat tonight and they were outplaying us for a good while,” defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said. “I’ve got to give credit to their team. They kept getting better throughout the series and their goaltender was just a catalyst for them. It’s sad to lose and finish like this, but I’m proud of these guys in the locker room.”
Goaltender Ben Meisner gave a very emotional and cool speech to the players after the game. I can't quote him on it; it wasn't for the media. But I can tell you it was about how close they had become and how honored he was to be a part of it.
What he told me was this: “We gave it our all, at times, but we didn’t seem to learn our lesson early on. We knew the things they were going to do that were going to cost us. The No. 1 things were turnovers and odd-man rushes, and they accounted for every one of their goals tonight. It sucks. It stings. But there are a lot of guys in this room who are proud of themselves, proud of their effort and proud of how they came together as a group this year. The realization is only one team gets to win the last game of the season.”
Heading into the boards at 12:52 of the third period, Komets forward Brandon Marino suffered a leg injury and had to leave the game. The Komets didn’t know how serious it was yet. Marino, who led the ECHL with 88 points in the regular season, and who was third in MVP voting, had only two assists and minus-9 rating in the series. In the playoffs, he had one goal, five points and a minus-11 rating.
The Komets' power play was 2 for 19 in the series, 2 for 32 in the postseason. Cincinnati’s wasn’t much better at 2 for 15 in the series, 3 for 31 in the playoffs.
In hindsight, I really have to wonder why coach Gary Graham didn't put in Jason Dale and/or Sy Nutkevitch in the last two games. It would have added some energy and played into those things the Komets wanted, like a better forecheck.
But some of the defensemen were really exploited in the last two games. The Komets only had one other blue-liner they could have used, but were you really going to throw rookie Justin Sefton into the fire?
I know a lot of people are going to blame the lack of affiliation on this loss. To me, that's just an excuse. The Komets proved they could defeat Cincinnati. They even ousted the Reading Royals. I don't think the NHL prospects were the deciding factor.
And while I'll get into this more later, the Komets said themselves they don't think affiliations played a role. And they didn't sound like they had any immediate plans to add an affiliation.
I think the players here got to know each other well enough that many of them will return, if invited back. I can't imagine a nucleus of Marino, Shawn Szydlowski, Mike Embach, Dean Ouellet, Scott Fleming, Christian Ouellet, Jordon Southorn, Simon Danis-Pepin and Ben Meisner wouldn't be a very good one.
And before you start asking, the only reason I didn't name Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, Chris Auger and Aaron Clarke is because those are guys that are going to have to decide if they're going to keep playing because of age and injuries before anything happens.
The Komets’ annual end-of-season party and jersey auction will be Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Appleseed Room in Memorial Coliseum. Admittance is $5. Season-ticket holders and kids under 12 get in free.