On the heels of a 6-3 loss tonight to the Tulsa Oilers, Komets coach Ben Boudreau summed it up this way: “We pride ourselves on playing the right way. I think we all know where we’re at and we’re trying and trying and trying. Maybe we’re trying a little too hard. We’re working hard but not smart. We’ve got to work smarter.”
The Komets got a beautiful goal from Drake Rymsha, after Brett McKenzie’s drop pass set up Shawn Szydlowski for a drop pass to Rymsha. Brett McKenzie also scored, after stealing the puck from the Oilers on a faceoff. And Taylor Doherty netted a slapshot from the right circle.
But what stood out from the game was the allowance of odd-man rushes, a product of players getting too aggressive in the offensive zone; turnovers in bad spots in the defensive zone, the worst made by Doherty behind his own net so Tulsa could make it 5-1; and missed offensive opportunities because the Komets tried to make one too many passes.
“We’re going back to maybe the first 20 games of the season, what a common problem (defense) was, so it’s tough,” said Boudreau, adding Rymsha, McKenzie and Szydlowski were the only consistent offensive presences for Fort Wayne.
“Everybody is trying to figure it out. Everybody is trying to fight their way out of it. Right now, I think everybody is gripping the stick too tight. We had a lot of chances to come back in the second and we just didn’t score. We just didn’t bear down in front of the net.”
(Video highlights from the game are above.)
The Komets (21-18-8), who are 2-4-3 in their last nine games, got 28 saves from Patrick Munson. The Oilers (22-23-6) got 37 saves from Olle Eriksson Ek, a hat trick from Adam Pleskach, two goals from Robby Jackson and a goal from Deven Sideroff.
The announced crowd of 10,567 – larger than capacity – was on hand for Wizarding World Night, otherwise known as Harry Potter Night. But it didn’t have much cheering to do at Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s tough to point your finger at just one thing. There’s plenty there to clean up,” Fort Wayne captain A.J. Jenks said. “At the same time, there’s plenty of things we did really well, too. It’s just a matter of cleaning up those mistakes and bearing down when we do have those opportunities, and making good on them.”
The Komets came into the weekend in third place in the division but have dropped into the fourth and final playoff spot with 25 games left in the regular season. Fort Wayne is three points back of the Indy Fuel with the teams meeting 3 p.m. Sunday at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
“It seems like every little mistake we make is ending up in the back of our net right now,” Jenks said. “And we’re really having to work for offense and we’re not getting many bounces, so we’re going to have to keep plugging away, keep playing a gritty, dirty game. And we’ve got to make sure we play the full 60 minutes without taking any shifts off.”
Some thoughts …
• The Komets’ defensemen keep pinching in the offensive zone and getting caught. It happened three times in first 10:43, with one of the odd-man rushes resulting in a Tulsa goal by Jackson. And it’s usually the same offenders.
• Offensively, I get that they’re looking for the surefire goal, but sometimes you’ve just got to shoot the puck so good things can happen.
• There is a silver lining to the Komets being in fourth place in the division. They would currently match up with Cincinnati in the first round and Indy would match up with Toledo. The Komets haven’t had any success against Toledo and the Fuel has, so that might bode well for Fort Wayne.
• Something I’ve noticed about this Komets team is it doesn’t seem to get fired up enough in front of big home crowds. You would think they’d lay the body a little bit more or something to get the crowd going early.
• Munson is two games into using his new orange pads. Karmically speaking, he should have stuck with the yellow ones. Plus, those would have actually matched the jerseys used today – with yellow numbers – infinitely better.
• Speaking of Munson, he just didn’t have enough help tonight. I know this is easier said than done, but the Komets have to do something to rebuild the defense. Bearing in mind they were missing a lot of bodies tonight, I just don’t see them having much success long-term with the defensive deficiencies of a few guys.
• The Komets played without forwards Brady Shaw (head), Shawn St-Amant (upper body) and Brad Morrison (leg); defensemen Chase Stewart (ECHL suspension), Kyle Haas (suspension) and Jason Binkley (healthy); and goalie Dylan Ferguson (illness).
• McKenzie, whose wrist was cut by teammate Alan Lyszczarczyk’s skate blade at Jacksonville, Florida, on Jan. 31, returned to the lineup after missing one game and a week of practice. Neither McKenzie nor Max Gottlieb are at full speed right now.