Komets coach Gary Graham has been pretty good about not looking frazzled during this tumultuous season, but on Sunday night he did have the look of a man who needs to catch a break.
The Komets’ 3-2 loss to the lowly Gwinnett Gladiators included a litany of things that would have any Fort Wayne coach, or fan, shaking their head.
There was the goal from just inside center ice that Gwinnett’s Brenden Walker scored off new goaltender Ben Meisner in the second period for a 2-1 lead. There was the would-be game-tying goal scored by Brandon Marino 8:50 into the third period, which was waved off by referee Chris Pitoscia because Scott Fleming had been playing with a broken stick. And, of course, the ensuing power play for delay of game resulted in a shot by Gwinnett’s Maxime Legault that banked off a multitude of skates before going into the net for a 3-1 lead.
After Fort Wayne’s Chris Auger beat the goalie but hit the crossbar, the Komets got a late 6-on-3 advantage, by pulling their netminder and drawing penalties. Fort Wayne got a goal off a rebound by defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin at 19:21, but that was its last good shot on net.
Oh, and one more thing: Center David Rutherford, acquired by the Komets from Orlando on Saturday, isn’t sure he’ll report to Fort Wayne.
There are a lot of guys in there that are giving a lot right now, said Graham, whose Komets are 11-11-5 in his first season. The last couple of nights, we’ve been going with eight (defensemen) and eight forwards in the lineup. There are a lot of guys that are doing good things for this team.
But at the end of the day, it’s about putting up wins. Everybody has to reflect on this day off (today) about what they can do to help this team push forward.
The Komets are 1-2-0 since losing Mike Vaskivuo, their 2012 playoff MVP, and Mickey Lang, their leading goal scorer, both of whom wanted to be traded. Lang was dealt for Rutherford and future considerations, and the Komets are still trying to persuade him to come. If he doesn’t, he would either have to be traded or play in another league.
In front of 6,109 fans Sunday, Marino opened the scoring 7:26 into the first period, when he accepted Fleming’s pass from behind the net and blasted it beneath goalie Brad Phillips, who stopped 34 of 36 shots.
We only scored two goals, even though we had (so many) chances, and we just can’t bury them, said Marino, whose Komets came into the day ranked ninth among the ECHL’s 22 teams with 3.00 goals per game.
Some games, you’re going to have those (nights where it’s hard to score), but it’s too much, too often right now. We’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net when we have our chances, Marino said.
Gwinnett’s offense was ranked 21st with 2.41 per game.
We’re losing games right now. We can’t keep getting two or three games above .500 and then losing two or three and getting right back where we started, Marino said. Being .500 doesn’t make the playoffs.
Gwinnett’s Josh Currie tied it at 1 at 17:07 of the first by weaving through several defenders and putting a shot above the glove of Meisner, who stopped 22 of 25 shots.
This was the first meeting between Fort Wayne and Gwinnett (10-17-2) since their five-player trade Dec. 12, which brought Mike Embach and Nathan Martine to the Komets for Bobby Hughes, Rob Kwiet and Brett Lyon.
Hughes had two assists Sunday, while Lyon had one.
Fort Wayne scored on 1 of 5 power plays. Gwinnett was 1 for 3.