CINCINNATI – Hard-shooting defenseman Jamie Milam was back in the Komets lineup for the first time this season.
It didnt help.
Goaltender Marco Cousineau, just back from Norfolk of the American Hockey League, made 27 saves.
That didnt work either as the Komets fell 2-1 Tuesday to the North Division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones. Fort Wayne, which lost for the fourth time in its last six games, trails Cincinnati by eight points with 22 games remaining.
The lineup had proven scorers brought in during the season to improve the offense – Milam, Matt Syroczynski, Thomas Beauregard – yet, 15 of the first 18 shots went to the Cyclones in the first 23 minutes, 40 seconds. By then, the Cyclones had a two-goal lead on goals from Andrew Conboy, whose knuckling 20-foot shot fooled Cousineau, and Matt Smyth, who scored off a rebound during a power play.
Aside from Brandon Marinos third-period goal off a rebound, the Komets only had three great even-strength scoring chances from close range – by Matt Firman, Beauregard and Syroczynski.
I just said to these guys, The game is not a light switch. You cant turn it on and off like that, alternate captain Brett Smith said. That last 10 minutes was gorgeous to watch but we just didnt find a way. Could that have been a goal near the end when there was a quick whistle (on a power play)? Maybe. But we cant make excuses. We have to play 60 minutes.
The Komets (26-23-2) had a flurry of chances on the late power play, but Cincinnati goalie Brian Foster finished with 20 saves.
Its unacceptable, Smith said the Komets habitual slow starts, which have left them in a three-way tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The top eight make the playoffs.
This team is going to make the playoffs. Im going to say it right now. This team is making the playoffs and Im going to do everything possible to make it happen. Everyone is on board. Were going to battle hard and were going to find a way.
What you saw in the last 10 minutes, hopefully thats whats to come. Thats what we need to do or were going home early.
The Cyclones (28-16-6) had been 0-2 against the Komets at U.S. Bank Arena – there were 2,399 fans – but the Komets skated one man short of a full 18-player lineup because of injuries to captain Colin Chaulk, Scott Kishel and John Dunbar.
Very good (performance), excellent, Komets coach Al Sims said.
For the third game in a row, we were a man short, and to get the effort like that out of the guys is great. Being short-handed and four games in six nights, the guys gave it everything they had.
Cincinnati scored on 1 of 5 power plays. Fort Wayne was 0 for 2.
There was a third-period fight between Fort Waynes Tyler Butler and Taylor Ellinger.
Milam, who is in his third stint with the Komets, had two shots.
I like what I see out of this team after one game, said Milam, who had been playing in Europe.
I know we struggled in the first two periods, but what we saw in the third period is we can compete and compete with anyone in this league.