FORT WAYNE – The Komets appear to be in good position to make the playoffs, something they didn’t do last year for the first time since 2002.
But when you consider their problems at home – 9-8-9 at Memorial Coliseum – and that 10 of the remaining 15 games are at home, things are a bit murkier.
We’ve been in a lot of close games but the room for error is very small, coach Gary Graham said. We need to get better at home.
The top eight teams in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference make the playoffs and the Komets (26-20-11) are tied for eighth with the Florida Everblades (28-22-7). The teams play Friday and Saturday at the Coliseum.
Only eight points separate fifth-place Cincinnati (70 points) and 10th-place Evansville (62), so while it’s unlikely the Komets could get home-ice advantage in a first-round playoff series, they could still grab a decent seed.
Or, they could wind up missing the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1974 and 1975.
Despite being banged up – forwards Dean Ouellet (head), Matt Carter (groin) and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock (shoulder) are all questionable – the Komets know their playoff hopes rest on the ability to win at the Coliseum.
Here are the keys to making that happen:
The Komets have the league’s worst home power-play efficiency. They have scored on 10 of 101 opportunities (9.9 percent). They rank rank eighth on the road with 21 goals in 133 chances (15.8 percent).
Even though defenseman Jordon Southorn got called up to Portland of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, the Komets need to generate more offense from the point with Jace Coyle and Simon Danis-Pepin and off rebounds.
Forward Brandon Marino leads the Komets with five goals and 12 assists on power plays in 57 games. Forward Chris Auger has three goals and seven assists in 56 games. And Coyle has four goals and eight assists in 53 games.
The Komets have had plenty of games where they get off to good starts but sagged into the finish.
The Komets have lost 11 of 20 home games in which they’ve been tied or ahead after two periods. Two of the losses came in regulation, five in overtime and four in shootouts.
The Komets have yet to win at the Coliseum when trailing at the second intermission, losing all six in regulation.
The ice surface at the Coliseum is listed as regulation size – 200 by 85 feet – but some of the Fort Wayne players believe it’s larger and that some of the rinks on the road are smaller. Or, maybe it’s just psychological because the Komets have trouble playing the same sort of battering style at the Coliseum that they bring on the road to wear down opponents and drag them into bad penalties. The Komets get 3.88 power plays per game at home, 4.29 on the road. They released hard-hitting Jeremy Gates on Tuesday.
On the road
Only Ontario (21), Cincinnati (19), Florida (18) and Reading (18) have won more road games than the Komets, who are 17-12-2 on the road. But the Komets have lost three of their last four road games.
The Komets still have two games at South Carolina, two at Toledo and one at Kalamazoo. The Komets are 2-5-1 in road games against those teams.
The Komets hope to make some moves before Thursday’s trade deadline. But whatever their personnel, they have to play more consistently if they want to make the ECHL playoffs for the first time.