FORT WAYNE – The Komets swept Games 3 through 5 at Memorial Coliseum to win their first-round series in five games against the defending champion Reading Royals.
But the Komets know repeating that feat against the Cincinnati Cyclones is much different.
We have confidence, but at the same time it’s a different team, and they play systems differently, and we have to play the way we can. If we play the way we can and do the right things, I think we have confidence, said forward Aaron Clarke, whose Komets lost 5-2 to the Cyclones on Saturday, tying the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at one game apiece.
The last game, we got away from that and I think it showed in the score and on the ice.
Game 3 is tonight at the Coliseum.
The Komets opened this series with a 2-1 victory at U.S. Bank Arena. But they failed to maintain possession of the puck as much as they needed in Game 2 against the Cyclones, a team stocked with seven NHL-contracted players and five on contracts with teams in the American Hockey League.
We’re confident, but we also know the challenges ahead of us, said Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham, whose only NHL-contracted player is Shawn Szydlowski.
Cincinnati’s a very good team, well-coached, and they’ve got a lot of depth over there. You’ve seen again why they’re one of the best offensive teams, if not the best, in the entire ECHL. You’ve got to minimize your mistakes and turnovers against them and manage the puck the right way, get pucks in deep. We just didn’t do a good enough job of that. Even in the first game that we won, we still gave them too much off the rush. That’s something we’ve got to get better at.
The Cyclones, the fifth and highest remaining seed in the conference, are the ECHL’s best team on the road. They were 24-9-3 in the regular season and are 3-0 in the playoffs.
The eighth-seeded Komets were 16-11-9 at the Coliseum in the regular season, but they have won nine of their last 10 home games.
We both were two of the top road teams, so we’re very, very similar in that regard, Graham said. I think regular season, all that stuff is out the door come playoff time. I think everybody amps it up on home ice in the playoffs, which we’ve shown we have the ability to do against Reading. So we’re very confident on home ice right now because we’ve had a lot of success the last month or so.
Home-ice advantage hasn’t meant much in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Home teams have lost 15 of 26 games.
In the other conference series, Greenville leads Wheeling 2-1, and the home team has lost every time.
Only the Komets and Bakersfield of the Western Conference are undefeated at home in the playoffs.
(The Cyclones) are a great team on the road, and playoffs are different, Clarke said, and we can’t take anything for granted just because we’re home. We have to be the better team.