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vs. Cincinnati
Eastern Conference
Series: Best of 7
Friday: at Cincinnati, 7:35 p.m.
Saturday: at Cincinnati, 7:35 p.m.
May 8: at Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
May 10: at Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
May 11: at Fort Wayne, 6 p.m.*
May 13: at Cincinnati, 7:35 p.m.*
May 14: at Cincinnati, 7:35 p.m.*
Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Mike Embach, left, and the Komets will face Cincinnati in the second round of the ECHL playoffs.

Komets overthinking power play

– Nothing about these playoffs has been a zero for the Komets – except their power play.

Despite ousting the defending champion Reading Royals in just five games in a best-of-seven opening-round series, the Komets’ power play was 0 for 13.

“We just need guys to make plays. Guys who make plays 5 on 5, all of a sudden they get too much time and space,” coach Gary Graham said. “Really, that’s kind of been our M.O. the entire year. It seemed like the more time and space we had, the more we overthink things, instead of just going out there and making the basic play that’s right in front of you and getting to the net.”

The Komets open the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals with games Friday and Saturday in Cincinnati.

The Cyclones’ penalty-killers stopped 18 of 19 Orlando power plays in their six-game series that ended Tuesday.

“We had some good scoring chances (against Reading),” Graham said, “and a lot of times on the power play that’s what you’re looking at doing is creating momentum – not necessarily scoring, but getting good chances where you can get some momentum, and start really doing some dictating and maybe creating some doubt on the other team.”

In the regular season, the Komets’ power play struggled to 13.9 percent efficiency for a ranking of 20 out of 21 teams.

The Komets weren’t the only team without a power-play goal in the first round; Greenville was 0 for 14 in its six-game victory over Kalamazoo, and South Carolina was 0 for 13 as it got swept by Wheeling.

In the Eastern Conference, the lower seeds won every series, and the Komets became the first eight to ever defeat a one in a best-of-seven series in ECHL history. Against the fifth-seeded Cyclones, they hope to take advantage of more opportunities with the man-advantage.

“(We need to) simplify, get pucks to the net and get guys there,” forward Mike Embach said. “A couple of times (against Reading), we had good chances, like we moved the puck real well and we’d do everything but score. So we’ve just got to get over that hump. If we can get one, we should get some confidence and be fine with it.”

Fort Wayne was 5-1-2 against Cincinnati in the regular season.

Brandon Marino had six goals and 13 points in eight of those games, while Embach had six goals and seven points in six games. For Cincinnati, Josh Birkholz and Paul Crowder both had five points in seven games.

In the playoffs, Cincinnati’s Byron Froese has a league-leading five playoff goals, but his team has struggled on the power play, too, going 1 for 16. Fort Wayne’s penalty kill has allowed two goals in 15 opportunities.

The positive for Fort Wayne on the power play is it has been establishing the offensive zone more easily lately.

“We’ve been doing better at getting the pucks in,” Embach said. “That was where we struggled late in the season, like we kept turning them over at the blue line. But since we’ve been getting better at that, now we’ve just got to work on getting pucks into the right spot because our rebounds are flying wide. We need get them out into the middle where we can put them in the back of the net.”

*-if necessary