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Komets ‘still on break’: Shut out by Fuel

January 26, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS : The Komets had hoped to come out of the All-Star break a changed team.

Instead, a lackadaisical performance left coach Gary Graham asking late Friday: “Aren’t we still on the break? I think we are. ... That’s exactly how I feel.”

In a 5-0 Indy Fuel victory, Matt Tomkins stopped 30 shots : 14 saves coming in the third period with the game already decided : in front of 3,297 fans at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

Not only did Fort Wayne (21-17-3) extend its winless streak to five games at 0-3-2, the Komets also allowed the Fuel (21-18-3) to tie them for third place in the Central Division.

“We don’t play tomorrow. We’ve got a chance to let it sink in and we’ve got an even bigger game Sunday against (fifth-place) Wheeling (in West Virginia), so there’s nothing you can do about this one. You’ve got to focus on the next one,” Graham said.

The Komets were missing much from their lineup, including their top two scorers, Justin Hodgman (hand) and Jake Kamrass (upper body), along with Jordan Sims (hip). There’s also no telling when, or if, they’ll get back players from the American Hockey League. Goalie Zach Fucale and forward Matthew Weis are with Chicago and forward Phelix Martineau is with Laval.

“This is a huge disappointment for us. These are huge games, a huge weekend for us, and I expected us to come out with some jump and win this game. We had to find a way to do it and failed to do that,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said.

The outcome really could have been worse for the Komets. Starting goalie Lukas Hafner foiled two Brett Welychka shots from point-blank range, and defenseman Jason Binkley stopped a shot that was headed toward an open net.

But Hafner was yanked after two periods, having stopped 14 of 18 shots, and his replacement, Eric Levine, stopped 4 of 5.

“I don’t think anyone here is happy. You can’t dwell on it and feel sorry for yourselves. We’ve got to figure out a way to start playing good hockey,” Schaafsma said. “And we’ve got to find a way real fast around here.”

The Komets hadn’t been shut out since Toledo’s Jeff Lerg stopped 23 shots in a 5-0 victory to oust them from the 2017 playoffs. The last time they had been held scoreless in the regular season was March 19, 2017, when Fucale stopped 30 shots in a 1-0 Brampton victory.

Friday was Indy’s first shutout victory since Jan. 27, 2017, when Jake Hildebrand stopped 45 shots in 2-0 victory over Rapid City.

The Komets had seemed to have figured things out after team president Michael Franke lambasted them for their inconsistency on New Year’s Eve. What ensued was a five-game winning streak. But now the Komets are in their worst rut since a 1-5-0 start to the season.

Indy got a goal and three points from Welychka, who scored for a 3-0 lead 10:22 into the second period to typify the Komets’ night.

After J.C. Campagna lost his footing in the defensive zone, Indy’s Quentin Shore sent a cross-ice pass for Welychka to score from the right circle.

The Fuel also got goals from Matt Thompson, Connor Moynihan, Josh Shalla and Ryan Rupert.

jcohn@jg.net

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