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Binkley: Players must fix poor play

February 17, 2019

Komets coach Gary Graham has talked about it ad nauseum. So have captain Jamie Schaafsma and alternate captain Cody Sol.

So Jason Binkley, who has donned the “A” as alternate captain periodically, took a turn to explain the mindset of his team and motivate it after an 8-2 loss to the Adirondack Thunder on Friday at Memorial Coliseum.

Yes, it’s about defense, intensity and smarts, Binkley said, but it has to begin from the first drop of the puck and last the entirety of the game.

“I wish I had a better answer for how to explain what happens when the puck drops, but we’re the ones on the ice, we’re the ones between the glass, and we’re the ones competing,” Binkley said.

Graham sat Shawn Szydlowski, the ECHL’s reigning MVP and leading scorer Friday, but whether that motivates Szydlowski and the rest of the Komets remains to be seen. Szydlowski had two assists over his previous nine games. In 36 games since returning from Europe, Szydlowski has eight goals and 24 points, after he totaled 31 goals and 79 points in 64 games last season.

The Komets (23-18-7) are on a 2-4-6 run heading into today’s 5 p.m. game at the Coliseum against the Wheeling Nailers (23-22-6 going into Saturday), though Fort Wayne has been playing without All-Star Justin Hodgman (hand), Jordan Sims (hip) and Marco Roy and Phelix Martineau, both of whom were healthy scratches Saturday with Laval of the American Hockey League.

The Komets are 0-3-2 at the Coliseum since their last home victory, Jan. 12 against Utah, and are 11-9-3 overall at home.

Is the storyline getting frustratingly repetitive, even to the players?

“A little bit, but it’s such a long year,” Binkley said. “We’ve had guys in and out : and I’m not saying that’s an excuse : but we’re professionals and we get paid to do this. We need to play Komet hockey, especially at home, and for us it’s literally that we’ve got to be better. Everybody has got to be better. Yeah, it’s repetitive, but this is a group that has got to come together and be together. When we do that, we’re good.

“We had a great three-game set up in St. John’s, (Newfoundland, going 1-0-2 on Feb. 8-10). The scores may not have reflected it, but the team defense, we were great all weekend.”

The Komets rank 17th offensively (3.02 goals per game) and defensively (3.33 goals against per game) in the ECHL. But getting outscored 14-7 in their last two games : losses to Kalamazoo and Adirondack : represents defensive porosity.

They went in to Saturday tied with Kalamazoo for third place in the division, one point up on Wheeling. They were only 11 points back of Toledo for second place but had let those points slip away through their mediocre play over the last month.

“It’s on the individuals in the locker room. The coaches put the game plan together, but it’s on us,” Binkley said. “We’re the ones who get paid to play. We’re the ones who have to go out there and perform and do what we’re told to do. We have to come together as a group. I know I keep saying that, but from the vets on down to the rookies, everyone is a vital part of this team, whether it’s your 12th year or your first year, you have to understand that when you’re in the lineup playing for this team with that K on your chest, you’ve got to be ready to play for the full 60 minutes.”

jcohn@jg.net