Lack of effort bemoaned
A dispiriting 5-3 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings having been finalized, Komets coach Gary Graham and his captain, Jamie Schaafsma, had messages Friday night for the rest of the corps in the locker room: this penchant for making the same mistakes over and over has to stop, and something can be learned from the team that had just skated off the Memorial Coliseum ice victorious.
″(The Wings) paid the price tonight. They blocked a ton of shots, a ton. They laid out, sprawled out, sacrificed, they did what a road team is supposed to do coming in to win a game, so tip your hat to them,” Graham said.
Kalamazoo took a 4-2 lead in the second period when Luke Sandler scored off a redirection at 18:53 and Zach Saar sent a shot from the right circle just inside the right goalpost with less than a second remaining, both goals coming off power plays.
The Komets had just scored a big goal : newly acquired forward Brady Shaw netted a 40-foot shot above the sliding Alexander Mikulovich at 16:16 : but Fort Wayne’s habit of scoring a big goal and then giving one or two back reared its ugly head in front of 7,102 fans as Fort Wayne fell to fifth place in the Central Division.
“Plain and simple, we’ve got a few guys who are paid to do a big-time role here that are not getting the job done,” Graham said. “It’s time to start applying the pressure here because there are guys who have to start carrying a heavy load and they’re not doing it.”
Graham lauded the performance of Schaafsma, who drew a penalty shot when he was hauled down in 9:17 into the third period and then sent a shot past goaltender Jake Hildebrand, who stopped 27 of 30 shots for Kalamazoo (14-12-1). Zach Fucale stopped 21 of 25 for Fort Wayne (13-12-1), which had opened the scoring when a Shawn Szydlowski shot was redirected by Mason Baptista.
Also scoring for the Wings were Colin Jacobs and Justin Taylor (empty net).
“We know what to expect from these teams. We prepare all week for what they’re going to do,” Schaafsma said. “To me, everyone just has to elevate their games. We’ve got to find a way to be better every night. Each individual in here has to elevate their game and you can’t sit there. It’s not all Xs and Os; that’s not why we’re losing, it’s not strategies. Every man in here has to play their part, win battles, do the little things. All those things add up.
“For me, I just want to see each individual give a little more out there, whether it’s blocking a shot or backchecking or a little harder or get in on the forecheck a little quicker. We need guys to give a little more around here.”
There was some intrigue before the game when word came out that part of the Komets’ Tuesday trade with the Orlando Solar Bears had been voided. While they got to keep their end of the bargain, Shaw, Aidan Muir was on his way back to Fort Wayne. According to Komets general manager David Franke, Muir failed his physical with the Solar Bears because of an old hand injury from a skate blade. Since the deal was Shaw for Muir and future considerations, those considerations will now be greater and, according to Franke, they will be fulfilled either by 3 p.m. today or after the holiday trade freeze ends Dec. 26.
Notes: Marco Roy was re-signed by the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, just two days after he was returned to the Komets. ... The Komets plan to sign goalie Eric Levine today to fill the void left by Fucale, who will join Team Canada after today’s game for the Spengler Cup, a tournament in Davos, Switzerland.