AP NEWS

Reeling K’s can’t seem to catch a break

February 23, 2019

The good news for the Komets is they’ve salvaged 12 of a possible 28 points during a fairly dismal 14-game spell, relying on late-game comebacks to remain in fourth place in the Central Division at 23-18-9.

The bad news is that they’ve been unreliable past regulation time : going 1-3 in games decided in 3-on-3 overtimes and 0-5 in shootouts during the stretch : and that’s caused them to fall 14 points back of second-place Toledo, a team they might have been able to catch.

The really good news is that all-star forward Justin Hodgman, who has 12 goals and 39 points in 32 games, is slated to return for the Komets at 8 tonight at Memorial Coliseum against the Wichita Thunder. Hodgman broke his hand fighting Indy’s Zach Miskovic on Jan. 11.

The really bad news for the Komets is that defenseman Jason Binkley is out for the rest of the season, having broken two bones in his arm suffering an open-ice check from Wichita’s Gabriel Verpaelst during overtime of the Thunder’s 3-2 shootout victory Wednesday.

“He’s been, without a doubt, our most productive offensive defenseman and his play has really picked up the last few weeks,” Komets general manager David Franke said of Binkley, who had eight goals and 24 points in 48 games. “What can you do? It’s a really a freak injury. You just move on. We’ll address his loss either through a trade or a junior kid or college kid coming in soon.”

The Komets expect to get defenseman Sean Flanagan, who they acquired Wednesday from Greenville for future considerations, into the lineup this weekend. 

On Thursday, the Komets traded goaltender Lukas Hafner to Allen for future considerations, meaning Eric Levine won the battle to be Zach Fucale’s backup in Fort Wayne. Hafner was 12-10-2 with a 3.14 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage.

“We’re fighting with injuries now and like I’ve mentioned, ... it’s a next-man-in-line mentality. The guys up in the stands have to just come down and play that role and work their tails off, and hopefully contribute to the success,” Komets forward Jake Kamrass said.

The Komets have to improve their 5-for-32 success rate in shootouts. J.C. Campagna is the only player with multiple shootout goals : he’s 3 for 6 : while Shawn Szydlowski is 1 for 7. Some players, however, haven’t had many opportunities; Kamrass is 0 for 1 and Mason Baptista hasn’t had an attempt.

“Hockey is a confidence game for some guys,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “When some guys get down on themselves or things aren’t going their way, they can get down on themselves. That’s why I think it’s important for us to remain positive.

“It can’t be all doom and gloom around here.”

Fucale has been solid at the other end, stopping 10 of 13 shootout attempts. Levine has stopped 5 of 10.

Fort Wayne is 11-9-5 at the Coliseum heading into the “Pink the Rink” games tonight against Wichita (21-25-9, 8-13-6 on road) and 5 p.m. Sunday against ECHL-best Cincinnati (37-9-6, 16-8-2). The Komets will wear special jerseys that will be auctioned to benefit the Vera Bradley Foundation’s fight against breast cancer.

“We’re all trying to stay positive. Sometimes the only way out of the bottom is to dig deeper,” coach Gary Graham said. “We’re in a deep hole right now and it seems to keep getting deeper. But if you get out of it, then the rise is that much greater. That’s the way you’ve got to look at it.”

jcohn@jg.net