CINCINNATI – The Komets’ 62nd season ended Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones, who won the Eastern Conference semifinals in six games.
Here’s a look at some of the best and worst parts of the season and what the team must do to improve next season:
Top 3 games
April 11: The Komets clinched a playoff berth – something they didn’t do last year – with a 4-3 victory at Memorial Coliseum over the Evansville IceMen. It came thanks to a Christian Ouellet goal on the power play, which was dismal most of the season.
April 17: The Komets won the first game of the playoffs, 2-1 at Reading, Pennsylvania, thanks to Shawn Szydlowski’s goal with 8.1 seconds remaining. Not only did it give Szydlowski the confidence that propelled him to a team-leading six goals and 11 points in the playoffs, it gave the Komets the swagger they needed to knock off the defending champion Royals in five games.
May 10: After losing controversially in double overtime in Game 3 to Cincinnati – the Cyclones’ Josh Shalla scored a power-play goal after a penalty for delay of game – the Komets answered with a 3-2 series-tying overtime victory on a shot by Jordon Southorn that caromed off Cincinnati’s Taylor Aronson.
Top 3 personnel moves
Getting Ben Meisner: It cost the Komets only forward Phil Mangan to get Meisner, who solidified the goaltending in a season the Komets used a franchise-record nine netminders. After his Dec. 26 acquisition, Meisner went 14-6-2 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in the regular season. In the playoffs, he was 6-5 with a 1.91 GAA and a .932 SP.
Trading for Jordon Southorn: After a 6-5-3 start, the Komets shook things up by trading captain Nick Tuzzolino to Elmira for Southorn, who became their most capable defenseman at both ends of the ice. He had 12 goals, 32 points and a plus-5 rating in 53 regular-season games, then two goals, five points and an even rating in 11 playoff games.
Acquiring Mike Embach: In 63 games with the Komets, regular season and playoffs combined, he had 26 goals and 50 points, showing top-line talent. He was acquired from Gwinnett on Dec. 12 along with Nathan Martine for underachieving Bobby Hughes and Rob Kwiet.
Worst 3 moments
The trade clause: When Mickey Lang cleaned out his locker, the Komets were forced to trade him, and he was dealt to Orlando on Dec. 28 for David Rutherford and future considerations. Except, the Komets failed to include a clause that negated the trade when Rutherford didn’t report. Lang went on to be league MVP. Fortunately, the future considerations turned into Aaron Clarke, but he didn’t arrive until March 13.
The Muse: John Muse had won championships in college and the ECHL, so it looked as if the Komets would be in excellent shape with him as their goalie. But he got called up after only one game.
The awful finale: Few could have expected how badly the Komets would play Tuesday with their season on the line. They allowed the first three goals, and 15 of the first 18 shots.
3 things to improve
Playmaking help: The ECHL’s scoring champion, Brandon Marino, was held to two assists in the Cincinnati series and the Komets totaled only 13 goals in the six games, which included four overtime periods. The Cyclones were able to buckle down on Marino because the Komets lacked offensive depth.
Get some size: The Komets need to acquire the type of physical power forwards they have lacked for years. That way, they can win battles in the corners and wreak havoc in front of the net.
Defensive reliability: Southorn and Simon Danis-Pepin were the only defensemen who could be relied upon to solve incoming rushes and not turn the puck over.