FORT WAYNE – Of all the Komets’ frustrations this season, the biggest has been the struggling power play, which ranks 19th among the ECHL’s 21 teams at 13.2 percent.
That’s why it was so gratifying for them that the overtime game-winning goal Wednesday – the Komets defeated Cincinnati 3-2 – came on the power play from Brandon Marino.
It was great to see the power play come through in a big spot, said coach Gary Graham, whose team has a two-point lead over Florida for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining.
The Komets (32-23-12) are four points back of Wheeling heading into tonight’s game at Toledo (21-41-5).
You’d be amazed by how much we practice the power play. You’d be amazed, said Graham, whose power-play unit is tied with Gwinnett and better than only Elmira (11.9 percent).
And in practice, it looks completely (different). We’re just not doing a good enough job of executing, plain and simple. It’s probably a confidence thing. That’s the only thing as a coach you can look at.
Conversely, the Komets’ penalty-killing unit ranks second at 86.8 percent, behind only Greenville’s 89.1 percent.
It comes back to, you have to outwork a penalty-kill unit, Graham said. The reason our penalty kill has been so good this year is our four guys work hard and work as a four-man unit. And most of the time, they outwork the five guys (on the other team). That’s what other teams’ penalty kills are doing to our power play. We’re working as individuals instead of working as a cohesive five-man unit.
Marino, who leads the ECHL with 81 points in 67 games, has been the most reliable player on the power play with seven goals and 20 points.
Chris Auger has three goals and 10 points in 63 games. And Jordon Southorn has five goals and nine points in 48 games.
When you get into trouble, it’s when you’re not winning battles like after a shot into the corner, Marino said. When we have puck possession, that’s good, but we’ve got to win those battles when we don’t have possession. We can’t be as easy to play against.
The Komets’ power play has been better on the road, where it ranks 11th at 16 percent, than it has been at Memorial Coliseum.
It ranks last at 9.8 percent at home.
But the Komets believe there’s still time to turn things around and make the power play a strong suit heading into the playoffs – if they qualify.
They say special teams is going to win you most games, but the amount of determination we have in this room – the character is unbelievable, Matt Carter said. So I think we’ll overcome these little obstacles like that (power play).
Notes: To make room for new goalie Steven Summerhays, the Komets waived goalie Matt Grogan. In four games, he was 3-1-0 with a 3.39 GAA and .874 save percentage. Lamp Lighters Hockey Ministry will have a charity fundraiser 6:30 to 8 p.m. April 10 at The Summit (1025 W. Rudisill Blvd.), and it will include appearances from former Komets Guy Dupuis, Eddie Long, Steve Fletcher, Nick Boucher, Doug Rigler, Ron Leef, P.C. Drouin and more. Tickets are $15 for one or $25 for two. Go to www.lamplightershockey.com for more on the charitable endeavor.