KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Fort Wayne Komets cut a rut into the Wings Stadium ice from their defensive end to the penalty box Friday night in a 5-2 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings. Every time the Komets had a hint of momentum, a whistle would blow and another player would take the skate of shame to the sin bin.
It was contagious and continual and it wore out the players who were left on the ice, no matter how many great saves Kenny Reiter came up with. That's been the trend of late, and Komets coach Al Sims is sick of it.
``We needed to stay out of the box, we talked about it between the second and third, and it didn't happen,'' Sims said.
Even worse, despite all the practice, the Komets' penalty kill is falling apart, giving up nine goals in 32 attempts over the last five games. Sims has always taken pride in his team's penalty kill, but this recent performance is tearing at his guts.
``Pride is not going to fix the penalty kill,'' he said. ``It doesn't matter what we are doing, it's the guys that are out there who have to get the job done. A breakaway. Everybody knew the guy was coming out of the box, everybody is yelling from the bench and we get caught. There's no excuses.''
Thanks to Thomas Beauregard's second-period goal, the Komets had fought back to tie the score 2-2 heading into the third period. Then everything fell apart as the Wings charged out to score three goals in 3 minutes, 12 seconds.
``I thought we played well for two periods and gave ourselves a chance to win on the road,'' Sims said. ``(Colin Chaulk) gets caught napping and his guy gets a breakaway to the net. Unacceptable, and then he's in the box and they end up scoring the winning goal. Another veteran gets caught on the play. We just can't make individual errors and expect to win. It's just not going to happen.''
Even Reiter, who has been remarkable, couldn't stop everything thrown at him. He made several more spectacular saves otherwise the margin would have been larger. Kalamazoo goaltender Joel Martin played just as well and got more help.
``I think Joel Martin has been giving us an opportunity to win every night,'' Kalamazoo coach Nick Bootland said. ``He's been matching up against a great goaltender in Fort Wayne as well. He's played outstanding against us, and for us to finally get some goals past him is exciting.''
Even worse, the Komets had a 25-11 shots advantage halfway through the game and ended up being outshot the rest of the way 22-14. It's hard to shoot much when a good part of the team is sitting in the penalty box.