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Late lead slips away as Komets fall in shootout

December 16, 2018

Nobody getting on to the Komets’ bus for the overnight trip to Wheeling, West Virginia, for a 3 p.m. game today : the third game in 41 hours : was in a particularly rosy mood late Saturday. Especially not after the Komets squandered a late lead and lost 3-2 to the rival Toledo Walleye in an overtime shootout, in front of 7,598 fans at Memorial Coliseum.

There were some bad breaks, like Justin Hodgman, who has been snake-bitten on breakaways against the Walleye this season, losing control of the puck on what could have forced another round of the shootout. Or, as Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham was irritated by, there may have been some questionable officiating: Referee Matt Menniti gave Toledo four of the six power plays, ignoring Shawn Szydlowski getting hauled down in overtime.

But most disgruntling for the Komets was another night in which they failed to put together that complete game they’ve been looking for, squandering a terrific 37-save night from goaltender Zach Fucale.

“Consistency is the thing we continually talk about with this group, sticking with the process,” Graham said. “When we get stubborn like that, sometimes we give teams easy momentum. When you’re playing, especially on home ice, it should be tough for teams to come and generate anything, and when we turn pucks over with no pressure and don’t take care of the puck, give teams easy offense, it’s frustrating to watch.”

The Komets are short-handed : their injured list includes J.C. Campagna (eye), Cody Sol (knee) and Jordan Sims (groin), while Phelix Martineau and Marco Roy are in the higher-level American Hockey League : so there probably won’t be lineup changes today. That won’t soon be the case.

“It’s going to get very competitive around here and if guys aren’t going to buy in and get pucks in deep, then they’re going to be in the stands and not be in the lineup,” Graham said. “The best thing about this group is we’re still in every game, even though we’re making these mistakes. But again, against good teams, they’ll come back and bite you and that’s what happened tonight.”

Defenseman Ryan Lowney assisted on both Fort Wayne goals with shots from just inside the blue line that were redirected by forwards Jake Kamrass and Mason Baptista.

“I think we let them get a little momentum in the third period,” Lowney said. “We were playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. And then we gave them some offensive momentum going into the third there, and obviously in the late seconds they were able to capitalize.”

The Walleye (17-5-2) solved Fucale 15:26 into the second period : during a power play : when former NHL player T.J. Hensick was able to put a one-timer from the left circle off of the netminder to cut the lead in half.

In the shootout, Szydlowski scored for Fort Wayne (13-10-1) and Toledo got goals from Greg Wolfe and A.J. Jenks. Kaden Fulcher stopped 25 shots and shootout attempts from Lowney and Hodgman.

Notes: Former Komets captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock came out of retirement to join the Brampton Beast, coached by his former teammate Colin Chaulk, for a game in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Beast was short on players. Schrock had two shots in a 4-3 loss.

jcohn@jg.net

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