K’s feel snakebit after another shootout loss

February 18, 2019

Again, the Komets salvaged a point for the standings. Again, they left the ice frustrated.

This time it was a 6-5 loss to the Wheeling Nailers in an overtime shootout, not a bad result considering the Komets trailed 5-2 in the third period.

Still, the Komets feel snakebit. They outshot the Nailers 47-21 at Memorial Coliseum and their record in shootouts fell to 1-5 this season.

J.C. Campagna had the only goal of the shootout for Fort Wayne. Wheeling got tallies from Cam Brown and Alex Butcher.

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

(Video highlights are above.)

With 54 points apiece, the Komets and Nailers are tied for fourth place in the Central Division, one point back of Kalamazoo and one point ahead of Indy.

Fort Wayne is 0-3-3 since its last victory at the Coliseum, which was Jan. 12 against the Utah Grizzlies. Overall, the Komets are 2-4-7 since then, taking 11 out of a possible 26 points.

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

Fort Wayne forward Shawn Szydlowski, the ECHL’s reigning MVP and leading scorer, was back in the lineup after he was a healthy scratch in Friday’s 8-2 loss to the Adirondack Thunder at the Coliseum.

“We had a players’ only meeting yesterday and we talked about coming together and what we’ve got to do,” said Szydlowski, who had a third-period goal. “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.”

The Komets played without Justin Hodgman (hand), Jordan Sims (hip), Kevin Gibson, Oskari Halme and Eric Levine. Marco Roy and Phelix Martineau remained with Laval of the higher-level American Hockey League.

Here’s more bad news: general manager David Franke confirmed that Sims, a forward, who had one goal and three points in nine games for Fort Wayne, will undergo hip surgery to repair a torn labrum and miss the rest of the season.

“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.”

Sims, the son of former Komets coach and player Al Sims, was born in Fort Wayne and was acquired by the team Nov. 26 in trade from Greenville to complete an earlier trade for Thomas Ebbing.

Benefiting from two power plays, the Komets accounted for the first 10 shots on goal and got the first goal : 3:09 into the first period : when defenseman Ryan Lowney sent a wrist shot from just inside the blue line to the top of the net.

Fort Wayne, which came in with the ECHL’s worst-rated power play (12.9 percent), scored on 1 of 7 opportunities with the man-advantage.

The Nailers’ power play, which came in ranked third (21.9 percent), was also 1 of 7 and capitalized to tie it at 1 when Trevor Yates got to the rebound of a Yushiroh Hirano shot and deposited it into an open net at 12:49.

Butcher made it 2-1 on Wheeling’s next shot, a snap from the left circle at 13:58, which was shortly followed by a fight between the Komets’ Cody Sol and the Nailers’ Cedric Lacroix after goalie Lukas Hafner had been bowled over at 15:11.

After another Lacroix fight, against Szydlowski in front of the Fort Wayne bench 10:40 into the second period, the Nailers took a 3-1 lead. Wheeling’s Robbie Hall took advantage of Sol slipping while backtracking into the defensive zone, and Hall snapped a shot from the right circle over Hafner’s outstretched glove at 12:48.

Lacroix’s eventful game continued with a short-handed goal at 16:49, when he completed a give-and-go with Zac Lynch, to give Wheeling a 4-1 lead.

“We’ve got to just stick with it,” Szydlowski said. “There’s no recipe. Even me and Binkley during that second intermission, we just looked at each other and said, ‘I don’t even have an answer for this.’ We had two defensemen fall down and then they went and scored goals. We haven’t been getting any bounces. ... Our effort was there all night, maybe even all week.”

Garrett Clarke, skating his third game with the Komets, netted a goal 2:14 into the third period by skating out of the right corner and snapping a low shot past goalie Jordan Ruby.

The momentum seemed short-lived, as Lynch scored for the Nailers with a one-timer from point-blank range at 6:41 for a 5-2 lead, but Szydlowski, who hadn’t scored a goal in his previous nine games, put the rebound of a Lowney shot past Ruby at 11:10.

And Fort Wayne captain Jamie Schaafsma snapped a 40-footer into the net 1:32 later, cutting Wheeling’s lead to one goal at 5-4.

A cross-ice Schaafsma pass set up Brady Shaw for the game-tying short-handed goal from the right circle at 16:18.