FORT WAYNE – The Elmira Jackals have the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference, third worst among the ECHL’s 22 teams.
Yet the Komets have been unable to solve them.
A 5-3 loss to the Jackals at Memorial Coliseum on Friday night dropped the Komets to 0-2-1 in the season series and kept them three points out of the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with 36 games remaining.
You’ve got to play a specific way against Elmira, Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. And if you look at our three goals, we shot the puck. (The rest of the time), it was trying to be too cute with the puck.
The Komets (15-13-8) had been on a 4-0-3 run heading into this week, but lost 3-1 at Kalamazoo, Mich., on Wednesday before playing the Jackals in the final game before the All-Star Break. They play next at Elmira, N.Y., next Friday.
We didn’t have our legs going. We’ve gotten away from some of the details that had been making us successful the last couple weeks, Graham said.
We’re getting to the races too late. Poor placement on some dumps got us into trouble. And again, they just outworked us. That’s what happened.
Making matters worse was that the Jackals were led by Mike Vaskivuo, who was the Playoff MVP for the Komets en route to the 2012 CHL championship and was traded, at his request, to the Jackals on Jan. 6. He was booed by the 7,202 fans in attendance.
Vaskivuo, playing his fifth game with Elmira (12-19-4), scored his first goal with the team and assisted on another.
We didn’t really stick to the game plan early in the game, Fort Wayne defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said.
We had a plan to chip the pucks in and get to them deep. We had too many turnovers and gave them the opportunities. That’s how they wanted us to play and we let that happen. It hurt us.
It was the first of four straight games, and five of six, between the Komets and Jackals, a run that concludes Jan. 31 at the Coliseum.
It was the first meeting since the Komets dealt Vaskivuo and defenseman Nik Pokulok for forwards Christian Ouellet and Matt Carter. Earlier in the season, the Komets sent captain Nick Tuzzolino to Elmira for defenseman Jordon Southorn, but Tuzzolino is currently up with Rochester of the American Hockey League.
After Pokulok had the Jackals’ first shot of the game, Vaskivuo put in the rebound for a 1-0 lead at 2:00 of the first period. The Komets tied it at 17:55, when captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock straddled the blue line and sent a high wrist shot through a crowd and past goalie Maxime Clermont.
The Jackals regained their lead on a power play 4:14 into the second period. After Meisner stopped forward Danny Hobbs on a breakaway, forward Rob Bellamy put in the rebound. The Jackals went up 3-1 19 seconds later on a Jordan Pietrus goal.
At 10:42 of the second period, forward Ludwig Karlsson made it 4-1 with a one-timer from the slot, after Bellamy passed it from the right corner. Fort Wayne forward Sy Nutkevitch scored his first goal with the Komets in his 12th game at the end of a 2-on-1 rush, when the Komets were short-handed at 12:48.
In the third period, the Jackals got an empty-net goal from Bellamy at 18:24, which was followed by a Carter goal from the left circle.
Meisner stopped 26 of 30 shots.
Clermont stopped 20 of 22 but didn’t play in the third period because of an injury. His replacement, Russ Stein, stopped 14 of 15.