AP NEWS

Latest K’s loss fuels frustrations

April 5, 2019

The Komets’ players remained at their lockers well after Wednesday’s game, a 5-3 loss to the Indy Fuel in which they gave up five unanswered goals, and they discussed among themselves the need to come together, to play with more urgency, to figure out their problems before it’s too late.

Everyone who has followed the team this season knows what those problems are : failing to put together full 60-minute efforts, turning the puck over, taking bad penalties : and the loss to the Fuel put all of that on display.

Even an overtime loss would have clinched the Komets a playoff spot. Instead, they dropped to fourth place in the Central Division.

“You can’t let your emotions get a hold of you at this time of year or it’s going to keep going downhill,” forward Shawn Szydlowski said. “We’ve got to find a way to play good hockey.”

The Komets have three remaining games to secure their playoff spot : 7:30 p.m. today against the Fuel in Indianapolis; 7:30 p.m. Saturday against regular-season champion Cincinnati at Memorial Coliseum; 5 p.m. Sunday against Wheeling at the Coliseum : and the Komets can still surpass Kalamazoo for third place in the division.

The Wings have a one-point lead but only two games remaining. If the Komets leapfrog them, it would mean a playoff matchup with Toledo instead of Cincinnati.

That the Komets control their own destiny certainly wasn’t a topic coach Gary Graham wanted to discuss late Wednesday during a heated exchange with reporters, who he said needed to find their answers in the locker room.

“I’ve had to healthy scratch veteran players all year,” Graham said. “A coach should never have to healthy scratch veteran players in this league : ever. But that’s what I’ve had to do. I’ve had to bag skate. I’ve had to do everything. And it’s the same stuff over and over again.”

The Komets (33-26-10) are 5-3-2 against the fifth-place Fuel (34-32-4), which could still clinch a playoff spot if it wins its remaining games and Fort Wayne fails to get a point.

Aware of Graham’s frustration, the Fort Wayne players said they know the onus is on them to right things.

“It’s got to come from all the guys in the locker room. At the end of the day, Gary is the coach and puts together the game plan. But it comes down to who wants to win a hockey game,” Szydlowski said.

“At this time of year, guys have got to dig down deep and figure out if you want to have a long summer or if you want to play playoff hockey. I believe most in this locker room want to play playoff hockey and you’ve got to act like it.”

The Komets have missed the postseason only twice since 1996.

“At this point of the season, it’s not about making huge changes. It’s about making little adjustments so you’re better and better and ready for competition,” Komets goaltender Zach Fucale said.

“That’s the type of situation you face in the playoffs and we’ve got to prepare for that.”

Notes: Marco Roy was recalled by the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket, for which he is scoreless in nine games this season. Laval also has Phelix Martineau currently. ... Former Komets goalie Michael Houser was named to the ECHL’s All-League team along with Cincinnati teammates Eric Knodel and Jesse Schultz, and Brampton’s Matt Petgrave, Utah’s Caleb Herbert and Tulsa’s Adam Pleskach.

jcohn@jg.net