Turnovers cost Komets
The frustration for coach Gary Graham bubbled over Wednesday, after his Komets gave up five straight goals in a 5-3 loss to the Indy Fuel, on a night Fort Wayne needed only one point to clinch a playoff spot.
“You want to take a wild guess at what the No. 1 key to victory was tonight? Take a wild guess,” Graham said during a heated exchange with reporters, in which he challenged them to ask more difficult questions of the players.
The answer was turnovers. That wasn’t surprising after the Komets coughed up the puck in the offensive zone and got caught on a line change, setting up Matt Rupert for the go-ahead goal 14:38 into the third period at the end of a 2-on-0 rush.
“I’ve been coaching 16 years and in a 3-3 game, you give up a 2-on-0 rush? I’ve never seen it : ever,” Graham said, after the Fuel later got an empty-net goal from Ryan Rupert and kept its slim playoff hopes alive in front of 6,613 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
The Komets scored three times on their first seven shots. It started with a Jake Kamrass check behind the Indy net that dislodged the puck from Eric Schurhamer, allowing Anthony Nellis to send a pass to the slot for Jamie Schaafsma, who faked to his left and scored to the right 3:40 into the first period. That was followed by goals from Mason Baptista and Shawn Szydlowski.
But, as has been common this season, the Komets relinquished the lead, thanks largely to bad penalties. After Indy’s Woody Hudson scored on a deflected shot, Fort Wayne’s Anthony Petruzzelli and Szydlowski both took high-sticking penalties, setting up Travis Brown and Logan Nelson to score during the same 5-on-3 power play and tie it at 3.
“It all comes down to guys looking at themselves in the mirror and figuring out the right way to play,” Szydlowski said. “Sometimes if you take a cheap shot or something, you’ve got to look away. Even I have been at fault for that. Last week, I took a couple of stupid penalties and we ended up getting scored on and we lost a couple hockey games. I wasn’t thrilled about that.
“I don’t think (my penalty) was stupid tonight, but it was a mistake and I can’t do that on the penalty kill : give them a 5-on-3 and they scored two goals : so I’m at fault for this loss just as well.”
The Komets (33-26-10), who fell to fourth place in division and have three remaining games, play the Fuel (34-32-4) again Friday at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
“From now on, these are going to be tight games. We expect tight games and they’re not going to be any easier because the competition is just going to ramp up and we’re going to be facing some solid teams that are really looking for those points,” said goaltender Zach Fucale, who stopped 24 shots in his return from Chicago of the AHL.
“In our locker room, what we have to do is make sure we come ready for a really strong battle every day, and make those little adjustments whether it’s in the game or in between games to make sure we’re that much better for the next one and more well-prepared.”
Indy’s Matt Tompkins stopped 33 shots. His team was 2 for 3 on power plays. Fort Wayne was 0 for 2 on a day it released goalie Eric Levine.