FORT WAYNE – If the Komets miss the playoffs for a second straight season, and there’s a decent chance they will, they’ll look back on their problems winning at home as the cause.
A 3-1 loss to the Florida Everblades on Saturday night dropped Fort Wayne to 10-9-9 at Memorial Coliseum, just one night after the Komets had an impressive 5-2 victory there over the Everblades.
The teams are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference with 13 games remaining. They are three points back of seventh-place Wheeling and one point up on ninth-place Evansville.
When we score the first goal, we seem to be a different team, especially when we’re on home ice, said coach Gary Graham, whose Komets are 21-7-10 when scoring first and 6-14-1 when allowing the first goal, as happened Saturday.
The Everblades (29-23-7) netted the first goal on a power play at 13:44, after defenseman Mike Little shot the puck from just inside the blue line, goaltender Ben Meisner made the initial stop and forward Stefan Della Rovere swept it into the net. Many of the 8,022 fans in attendance seemed to believe the goal should have been waved off by referee Peter Tarnaris because Della Rovere had been inside the goal crease and, possibly, interfering with Meisner’s ability to make a save.
According to rule 69.1: Goals should be disallowed if an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.
Meanwhile, the Komets’ (27-21-11) power play continued to sputter. After coming into the night with the league’s worst power play in home games (9.7 percent), the Komets went 0 for 4. Florida was 1 for 5.
Mike Embach tied it at 7:02 of the second period, skating into the left circle, faking a shot and then blasting a shot toward the far side of the net, where the puck caromed off the skate of Della Rovere and went past goalie Trevor Cann, who made 27 saves.
The second period was huge for us, but we’re passing up too many chances to shoot the puck and that’s the problem for us, said Graham, whose team plays today at conference-worst Toledo.
We scored five goals (Friday) shooting the puck and getting to the net, and out of nowhere we get away from that. It’s unacceptable to play that way. Florida was good tonight, don’t get me wrong. But for me, it’s more about what we need to do to score more goals than we scored.
The Everblades’ Little made it 2-1 at 6:24 of the third period, after Fort Wayne failed to chase down the puck hard enough along the boards. The Everblades kept the puck in, even after their power play expired, and Little scored from 30 feet out. Just 1:48 later, Evan Bloodoff tucked a rebound underneath Meisner, who had 33 saves.
I think we played pretty hard, Fort Wayne’s Sy Nutkevitch said. It was obviously 1-1 going into the third period and we got hemmed in a little bit on the (penalty kill). (Friday), we really made good on our chances and today we missed a couple chances that went in yesterday. I don’t think this loss was for a lack of effort. I think we still played well. We did sink after they scored to make it 3-1. We seemed a little bit down on the bench.
Note: Forward Scott Fleming returned to the Fort Wayne lineup, after missing one game with a leg injury. But Fort Wayne was without Dean Ouellet (head), Matt Carter (groin), Jason Dale (groin), Christian Ouellet (leg) and Chris Auger (head).