CINCINNATI – One of the wildest seasons in the Komets’ 62-year history came to an end Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones in front of 1,602 fans at U.S. Bank Arena.
A dominating first-period performance sparked the Cyclones, who took the Eastern Conference semifinal series in six games and will now face the Greenville Road Warriors.
We gave it our all, at times, but we didn’t seem to learn our lesson early on, said Komets goaltender Ben Meisner, who stopped 29 of 32 shots.
We knew the things they were going to do that were going to cost us. The No. 1 things were turnovers and odd-man rushes, and they accounted for every one of their goals tonight. It sucks. It stings. But there are a lot of guys in this room who are proud of themselves, proud of their effort and proud of how they came together as a group this year. The realization is only one team gets to win the last game of the season.
As they did in every game of the series, the Cyclones scored first. At the end of an odd-man rush, Meisner made a kick save, but forward Josh Shalla got to the rebound, then banked it off Meisner’s left leg and just inside the right goalpost 4:11 into the first period. Shalla scored five times in the series.
The Cyclones tallied 16 of the first period’s 21 shots, and got a 2-0 lead at 18:09, thanks to forward Wade Megan. He skated across the Fort Wayne blue line, faked defenseman Matthew Maione to the ice, steered around him and shot into the far side of the net.
The Cyclones went up 3-0 on a goal at 1:51 of the second period by forward Dan Eves at the end of an odd-man rush, created when Fort Wayne defenseman William Lacasse went for a hip check on the boards but missed.
The issue we had early on is we weren’t skating, and we weren’t controlling the neutral zone, Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. Our D’ weren’t getting up with the play, so we were on our heels, and there was too much space between when they started and when we began. That was the issue early on and the reason they were able to play that transition game. We just weren’t sharp. Some guys were on their own page a little bit too much. By the time we really settled into the game, we had dug ourselves too big a hole.
Cincinnati goalie Rob Madore had 28 saves, including a key stop late in the second period on Shawn Szydlowski, who led the Komets with six goals and 11 points in the playoffs but had his four-game goal streak snapped.
Maione got a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding Mike Dalhuisen in the third period, and Fort Wayne successfully killed the power play, before center Dean Ouellet scored for the Komets on the redirection of a Simon Danis-Pepin shot at 13:23. But Brian Nugent answered with a late empty netter.
We came out flat tonight, and they were outplaying us for a good while, Danis-Pepin said.
I’ve got to give credit to their team. They kept getting better throughout the series, and their goaltender was just a catalyst for them. It’s sad to lose and finish like this, but I’m proud of these guys in the locker room.