Komets broadcaster Shane Albahrani summed up the feelings of about everyone in the room, biased as they may have been, when he opened the annual end-of-season party Friday by saying: “It’s been 48 hours and it’s still a good goal."
The pain of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones on the road in Game 7 of the Central Division semifinals is going to linger for a long time. Oliver Cooper’s goal with 1:11 remaining was controversially waved off, after officials determined Cyclones goalie Beck Warm was interfered with by Samuel Dove-McFalls, and the Komets, who surprised the ECHL world with victories in Games 5 and 6, left their 71st season wondering what might have been in overtime at the Heritage Bank Center.
“It’s going to take some time for that sting, and what happened to us, which was unfortunate, to wear off,” Fort Wayne forward/defenseman Daniel Maggio said. “But you know, we look at the upside of these moments and you get stronger from them. You’ve got to move forward.”
The party and jersey auction at Memorial Coliseum was the last gathering for this group before a summer that is sure to provide intrigue.
The contracts of head coach Ben Boudreau and assistant Olivier Legault, who led the Komets to the 2021 Kelly Cup, are expiring and management must decide how radical a change it wants to make to the roster after consecutive first-round exits in Game 7s.
Despite a roller coaster of a regular season, the Komets’ performance against the Cyclones may have changed some opinions on whether this team should be broken up or stay the course.
Their grit in the playoffs was particularly noteworthy given the number of injuries to key players suffering in the series, such as to Adam Brubacher, Marcus McIvor, Garrett Van Wyhe and Noah Ganske; the Komets had to play Game 7 one man short of a full lineup.
“It was an up-and-down season,” Maggio said. “But when the games really mattered, we came to play and won those big games. I’m really proud of my teammates. It’s still stinging a little bit, but when we look back, I think we grew up a lot and a lot of good things happened this year.”
At the jersey auction, which benefited local charities and nonprofit groups, goaltender Ryan Fanti’s jersey sold for the most at $5,600, followed by Anthony Petruzzelli’s at $3,000 and Mark Rassell’s and Maggio’s at $2,000 each.
The sale of Fanti’s jersey was a record; Justin Hodgman’s sold for $5,500 in 2008, when he scored the triple-overtime Cup winner in Game 7 in the International Hockey League.
“I think everybody should be proud of what we accomplished in that round,” Boudreau said. “We were against all odds and nobody gave us a chance to win maybe even a single game. … We lost four one-goal games and gave them the (Game 4 at the Coliseum), so we felt we deserved a better fate, but we did that without a lot of our main guys.”
The Cyclones opened the Central Division finals Friday night against the Komets’ chief rival, the Toledo Walleye, after getting all they could handle from a Fort Wayne team that embraced its underdog role and almost rode it to the first-round upset.
“For us to come together at the right time, we showed we were capable of great things,” Boudreau said. “If it wasn’t for a bounce here or there, then we could have seen how it would have went.”
Notes: Cyclones coach Jason Payne discussed the decision to wave off Cooper’s goal, which has been generally maligned on social media, during the Game 1 broadcast on FloHockey on Friday. “I knew it was goaltender interference,” Payne said, noting there was “no forced contact” that drove Dove-McFalls into brushing Warm. What’s been hotly debated beyond the level of contact is whether or not Dove-McFalls was actually in the goal crease. “I guarantee you, if the shoe was on the other foot, the same call was going to happen and there’d be the same chatter on social media and through the hockey world,” Payne said. The ECHL office has already said the correct call was made.