KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Fort Wayne Komets haven't missed the playoffs in back-to-back years since 1974 and 1975, but right now they are tying a knot in the rope and trying to hang on.
The Komets lost a pair of 4-3 games to the Kalamazoo Wings over the weekend to fall 12 points behind the Wings in the ECHL's North Division with 15 games remaining. It's time to quit focusing on the small standings and concentrate on the larger conference positioning. They are tied for eighth place with Florida which comes to Fort Wayne this weekend.
``There are no more moral victories at this point in the season,'' leading scorer Brandon Marino said. ``These are points that we have to. Just playing good isn't good enough, especially with how tight it is. Unfortunately, we lost four points this weekend. We need to find a way to get two points, and that's the bottom line.''
It didn't help that the Komets were playing short-handed as Matt Carter (groin) and Kaleigh Schrock (shoulder) missed Sunday's game, and then Dean Ouellet (head) left after the first period. Defenseman Nathan Martine was already playing forward, but that meant Komets coach Gary Graham and to doubleshift a few players.
``We need wins right now,'' Martine said. ``The guys are battling pretty hard, and we made a game of it, but it's frustrating. We should have one the first one and had a better fate on the second one.''
The hard part are some bad goals the goaltenders have been giving up. Ben Meisner got popped for four on Saturday, including a wraparound that he never moved on. Andrey Makarov gave up a bad rebound to the slot on a clear shot from the point to provide the Wings' Matt Firman with a wide-open net on Sunday.
After rallying on goals by Jordon Southorn and Brandon Marino in the first two minutes of the third period to tie 3-3, the Komets gave up the game-winning goal on the power play just a minute later. During a scrum in front of the Kalamazoo goal when Martine got decked, Shawn Szydlowski was called for roughing while coming to his aid.
``To see a call like that give them a power play is absolutely heartbreaking,'' Graham said. ``To see the ref take a good 3-3 game on an absolute bogus call... When Marty gets knocked off driving the net and Szyd doesn't do anything crazy at all… It's unbelievable.''
Fort Wayne had some chances to tie late but Joe Hartman's blast with 6:43 left hit the post, and Wings goaltender Joel Martin stopped Chris Auger on a penalty shot with 4:16 remaining on a pad save. The Komets out-shot the Wings 13-2 in the third period.
The Komets hope to get Christian Ouellet (leg) and Schrock back in time for Friday's game against Florida, but they'll also be looking to make moves at Thursday's ECHL trading deadline.
``Every team is going to be trying to get better this week, including us,'' Graham said. ``The reality of it is we have to get some bodies in here somehow, someway to make this final push. We're open to a lot of things, and we'll see how it plays out.''