K’s rally from 3 down, lose in OT shootout

February 18, 2019

So much of what happened during the Komets’ 6-5 overtime shootout loss to the Wheeling Nailers at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday could have been predicted.

There was Shawn Szydlowski, known for his fieriness, dropping the gloves to fight Cedric Lacroix. After scoring a third-period goal, Szydlowski motioned as if he was removing a monkey from his back and then stabbed it with his stick. Szydlowski, the ECHL’s reigning MVP and leading scorer, had been benched before Friday’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to the Adirondack Thunder, but he responded by snapping a nine-game goal-scoring drought Sunday.

There was Fort Wayne’s habitual third-period comeback, which came after Zac Lynch had put the Nailers up 5-2 with a one-timer from 12 feet at 6:41. Szydlowski began the onslaught by getting to the rebound of a Ryan Lowney shot. That was followed by captain Jamie Schaafsma’s 40-foot goal. And Brady Shaw forced overtime with a shot from the right circle in front of 7,471 fans.

Perhaps nothing has been more predictable lately than the Komets’ inability to win an overtime shootout and Sunday was no exception. J.C. Campagna beat goaltender Jordan Ruby in the first round, but Szydlowski and Shaw failed to repeat the feat.

Wheeling got tallies from Cam Brown and Alec Butcher, as the Nailers (24-23-6) pulled into a tie with Fort Wayne (23-18-8) for fourth place in the Central Division.

Fort Wayne is 1-5 in shootouts. It has scored on only 5 of 29 shootout attempts.

“We had a players-only meeting yesterday and we talked about coming together and what we’ve got to do,” Szydlowski said. “We came together in the third period tonight. It’s just that we’ve got to find a way to bear down in the shootouts, myself included. I’ve got to start scoring and make up for a lot of points, but this was a step in the right direction for us.”

Fort Wayne is 0-3-3 at home since its last victory at the Coliseum, Jan. 12 against Utah. Overall, the Komets are 2-4-7 since then.

They are missing All-Star Justin Hodgman (hand) and Jordan Sims (hip). Meanwhile, Marco Roy and Phelix Martineau have both been healthy scratches with Laval of the American Hockey League.

General manager David Franke confirmed that Sims will miss the rest of the season because he must have surgery.

“If he wants to play next year, he’s got to have it done now,” Franke said. “Otherwise, he won’t be ready in the fall.”

Special teams have been an ongoing issue : both teams scored on 1 of 7 power plays with one short-handed goal apiece Sunday : and the Komets believe bad luck played a part in them losing despite outshooting the Nailers 47-21. Case in point: A goal by Wheeling’s Robbie Hall that came after Cody Sol fell while back-peddling into his own zone.

“It’s a wild game,” coach Gary Graham said. “I can’t think in my mind, of all the years I’ve coached, where you just can’t buy a break right now. You just can’t buy a bounce. Guys are tripping and falling over a bad edge. They get three scoring chances and score on three. We get a million scoring chances and might score on two.”

Wheeling also got goals from Butcher, Trevor Yates and Lacroix, who also fought Sol. Fort Wayne’s other goals came from Lowney and Garrett Clarke.

“You can see that the guys are fighting, hitting more, blocking shots,” Graham said. “They’re doing everything that you need to try and do to try and win a hockey game, but it’s just not happening right now.”