Controversial finish to thrilling game

The Komets lost 3-2 to the Cincinnati Cyclones in double overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Memorial Coliseum. Check out the delay of game penalty that decided it -- it led to a power-play goal from Josh Shalla -- as well as all the other action. The Mike Embach goal is awesome. There are also great saves. By Justin A. Cohn.

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Poor start costs Komets in the end

– OK, so one more time: These guys ain’t Reading.

Reading was muck it up, slow you down, uglify the proceedings, because if it could do that it could nullify your speed and protect its sometimes spotty goaltending, and cash turnovers like cashier’s checks.

And Cincinnati?

Well, here’s what the Cyclones were Thursday night: Better than the Komets once more. If barely.

For two periods they skated the Komets off their feet, and then they didn’t, the Komets outshooting Cincinnati 10-0 in the first five minutes of the third period, 20-3 all told in the period 34-13 across the last period and overtimes.

The two-goal lead Cincinnati built through two periods … the ownership of the puck, especially in the neutral zone … the buffing of their rep as the best road team in the ECHL: It all went away when Shawn Szydlowski scored, and then Mike Embach.

And then?

Well. And then, instead of crumbling the way the script seemed to dictate, the Cyclones won it 3-2, Josh Shalla scoring at 11:25 of the second OT on a power play that happened when the Komets were tagged for delay of game.

And so again: This ain’t Reading.

And what is the lesson the Komets take away from that, now that they’re down 2-1 and Cincinnati has won back home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven?

“We got to be hungrier. We got to be the more desperate team,” Komets coach Gary Graham said this week, and if that fits even better now, it also ignores the fact they were plenty hungry and plenty desperate across the last period and overtimes, just not lucky or timely or whatever enough.

For long enough.

“I think we were just a little bit enamored by them in the first period,” Graham said when it was done. “There were plays to be made, easy ones, that were right in front of us, and for whatever reason we just weren’t sharp enough to be executing them.”

Saturday night they will need to be sharp enough, or they’ll fall down a well from which there may be no escaping. And they will need to do it for three periods, not just for the last one and then however much longer the thing goes.

If there’s a lesson here, that’s it, because if the Komets don’t let the Cyclones put them on their heels to start, there’s no 2-0 deficit to erase and it never goes late and later into the evening. It never goes one overtime, let alone two, with a sudden loss waiting at the end.

To a team that is not going to go away. Thursday proved as much.

“You tip your hat to Cincinnati,” Graham said. “It’s not always about us. You look at what the opposing team did, and they were doing a good job of chucking us early on. There was limited time and space, and I don’t think we were generating enough speed, and I think our transition passing wasn’t as sharp as it should have been.

“It wasn’t good enough in the first two periods. And that’s what we’ve got to take out of this game.”

Indeed.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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