K’s squander chance, lose in shootout
Komets coach Gary Graham was a bit peeved with the officiating, especially after seeing Shawn Szydlowski get hauled down in overtime with no penalty called on a night that, in his opinion, some weak calls were made on Fort Wayne.
However, Graham was much more upset with the way his team, again, failed to put together a complete game.
The Komets led the rival Toledo Walleye most of the night but allowed a late tying goal to Tyler Spezia, who skated in from the right circle and tucked the puck between the legs of goaltender Zach Fucale 19:08 into the third period at Memorial Coliseum.
The Walleye then completed the 3-2 victory in an overtime shootout, where Greg Wolfe and A.J. Jenks scored for the visitors. Szydlowski had a shootout goal for the Komets. Justin Hodgman lost the handle on the puck on the final attempt, continuing his woes on breakaways this season against Toledo.
“Consistency is the thing we continually talk about with this group, sticking with the process,” Graham said. “When we get stubborn like that, sometimes we give teams easy momentum. When you’re playing, especially on home ice, it should be tough for teams to come and generate anything, and when we turn pucks over with no pressure and don’t take care of the puck, give teams easy offense, it’s frustrating to watch.”
Fucale stopped 37 shots but was 0 for 2 in the shootout. Toledo’s Kaden Fulcher stopped 25 of 27 and was 2 for 3.
Komets defenseman Ryan Lowney assisted on both regulation goals with shots from just inside the blue line that were redirected by forwards Jake Kamrass and Mason Baptista.
“I think we let them get a little momentum in the third period,” Lowney said. “We were playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. And then gave them some offensive momentum going into the third there, and obviously in the late seconds they were able to capitalize.”
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The Komets (13-10-1) are 1-3-1 this season against the Walleye (17-5-2), which had lost the previous meeting, Nov. 30 at the Coliseum, when rookie Chase Stewart scored in overtime.
The Komets play the Wheeling Nailers in Wheeling, West Virginia, at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
With no other healthy forwards, there shouldn’t be any lineup changes, but some players in the stands could return soon.
“It’s going to get very competitive around here and if guys aren’t going to buy in and get pucks in deep, then they’re going to be in the stands and not be in the lineup,” Graham said. “The best thing about this group is we’re still in every game, even though we’re making these mistakes. But again, against good teams, they’ll come back and bite you and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Komets opened the scoring 4:26 into the first period when Kamrass, stationed in front of Fulcher, a 20-year-old rookie, redirected Lowney’s shot from the point into the bottom of the net.
One night after Fucale thrilled with a blind glove save on Wichita’s Dyson Stevenson in a 5-2 victory at the Coliseum, he had a sliding stop on a Wolfe shot in the first period to maintain the Komets’ 1-0 lead on the Walleye.
Lowney got his second assist 7:56 into the second period, when his shot from 50 feet out caromed off Baptista and into the net. It was Baptista’s first goal in his second game since returning to the Komets from Germany, where he’d started this season after helping Fort Wayne to the Western Conference finals.
The Walleye finally solved Fucale 15:26 into the second period : during a power play, on Toledo’s 25th shot : when former NHL player T.J. Hensick put a one-timer from the left circle off of the netminder and into the net, cutting the lead in half. It was Hensick’s fourth goal and ninth point in five games against Fort Wayne.
Notes: Phelix Martineau, who was called up this week from the Komets to Laval, got his first point in the American Hockey League. He did it on a goal scored by former Komets player Alex Belzile. ... Former Komets captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock came out of retirement to join the Brampton Beast, coached by his former teammate Colin Chaulk, for a game in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Beast was short on players. ... The Komets played without forward J.C. Campagna, their leading goal scorer, who was injured in a Friday fight with Wichita’s Dyson Stevenson. Cody Sol (knee), Jordan Sims (groin) and newly-acquired Trey Phillips were also out. ... The ECHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, Joe Ernst, was in attendance. ... The referee was Matt Menniti.