The Komets' chances of getting the top seed for the Western Conference playoffs have dwindled to almost nothing. They need to win their final three games, all at the Utah Grizzlies starting Wednesday, and get a lot of help.
That may be the least of their problems after losing 5-2 to the Indy Fuel, which is on the cusp of qualifying for the Eastern Conference playoffs thanks to defeating Fort Wayne the last two games.
The Komets, who got goals from Zach Pochiro early Monday and Marco Roy late, went 12-7-2 this season in the I-69 Rivalry.
Now, the third-place Komets have to rekindle their early-season magic and build momentum for a first-round, best-of-5 series that will most likely be against the Allen Americans, currently in second place, or, perhaps, the first-place Wichita Thunder.
“I thought you could see a team playing not to get hurt because we've already clinched (a playoff spot), and they had energy and were playing very competitive and desperate hockey to (try and) punch their ticket to the playoffs,” said Komets coach Ben Boudreau, adding the Komets “need” to get momentum before the postseason.
“We lost a lot of one-on-one battles, and that's just what it came down to. We were chasing the puck and following the puck, losing our man, so there was a lack of focus and lack of execution tonight.”
There was some good news, namely that the Komets scored first after allowing the first goal in nine straight games. And the goal was from Pochiro, who intercepted a Dmitry Osipov pass to score on a breakaway 8:44 into the first period, snapping a streak of 13 games in which Pochiro hadn't netted one.
But the Komets' offense remained generally out of sorts – Indy's Billy Christopoulos stopped 30 shots and the power play was 0 for 5 – giving Fort Wayne only 14 goals over its last eight games. The only time it exceeded two goals in that span was in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Fuel in an overtime shootout.
“As far as our fans and stuff, I wouldn't worry too much because this team is going to be fine,” Pochiro said. “We're going to get back on track, come the time that it matters.”
Dylan Ferguson stopped 33 shots for the Komets but was bested by Terry Broadhurst off a rebound; Michael Pelech off a redirection; Nick Hutchison on a wraparound; Alex Rauter after Ferguson had made a stop but bobbled the puck with his stick; and Osipov after Ferguson tried to make a pass but misplayed the puck.
Osipov's goal was preceded by Roy's 16:46 into the third period, set up by Nick Boka slithering through the defense and making a centering pass. Boka was then assessed a game misconduct for abuse of officials.
Indy scored on 1 of 3 power plays, though another goal came just after an A.J. Jenks elbowing penalty expired.