FORT WAYNE – The Komets had a sellout crowd of 10,480 fans in Memorial Coliseum, got captain Colin Chaulk back after a 32-game absence, and even received a gift-wrapped penalty shot from referee Tom Chmielewski.
None of it helped, as the Komets lost 4-2 to the Evansville IceMen on Saturday night.
The IceMen swept the home-and-home series and handed the Komets (26-25-2) their sixth loss in eight games, as they dropped to 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Only eight teams make the postseason.
The Komets have 19 games remaining in the regular season, starting today in Toledo.
We’ve just got to stay the course and keep working hard. I thought it was a pretty good effort tonight, but we could have done more, Chaulk said.
The IceMen, who have a conference-worst record of 19-30-5 and have won only three of their last 12 games, were led by a 28-save effort from goaltender Paul Dainton.
We’re struggling to score big-time right now, said coach Al Sims, whose Komets have scored five goals in the last four games. It’s playing on everybody’s minds, for sure. Confidence is a big part.
The Komets’ goals came from forwards Eric Giosa, who scored on a fortuitous blind shot from the right dasher boards, and Brandon Marino, whose power-play tally ricocheted off the right goalpost and past Dainton.
Chaulk, who has guided the Komets to five championships in the UHL, IHL and CHL since 2003, had missed six games with a shoulder injury and 26 with a foot infection. His return hadn’t been expected until this week but he got doctor’s clearance early.
He had two goals and 17 points in 19 games before Saturday’s annual Comcast Report Card Night, which gives kids with A grades a free ticket.
While Chaulk was out, the Komets went 15-16-1, and they weren’t much better against the IceMen, who tallied 14 of the first 22 shots.
For his first game, (Chaulk) looked incredibly in shape, Sims said. He looked like he hadn’t missed too much. I had planned on using him just a little, but he wanted to go a regular shift and get himself worked into shape. I thought he did really well.
Said Chaulk: It was better than watching, that’s for sure. We were aiming for me to play next week, but I knew it was going to be ugly before it gets better so we thought, why not just go through that? I’d had five practices, and considering that, I thought I was OK. I wasn’t miserable. I’m definitely nowhere near my game or what I’m capable of (yet), but that takes a lot of work.
Evansville’s Kevin Baker scored from the left circle on a power play, tying it at 1 in the first period. Defenseman Donnie Harris made it 2-1 in the second period, before Jean-Michel Rizk got a penalty shot because his shoulder was tugged from behind on a breakaway. Rizk missed the penalty shot and, shortly thereafter, the IceMen went up 3-1 on a Baker goal.
Center Dylan Clarke put the IceMen up 4-2 late in the second by putting a shot from the right circle above sprawled goalie Charlie Effinger, who had 20 saves.
Notes: Goalie Marco Cousineau missed the game because he aggravated a groin injury, so IPFW’s Larkin Saalfrank was the backup to Effinger. Because they are allowed to play only four veterans, defenseman Brent Henley was scratched. The other veterans are Chaulk, Brett Smith, Tyler Butler and Jamie Milam. Also out were Mike Hoban (shoulder), Scott Kishel (hand) and John Dunbar (lower body).