Fort Wayne can't stick to gameplan, stay out of penalty box
A column by Blake Sebring, email@example.com
Saturday, December 31, 2016 11:33 PM
Long-time Komets coaching legend Ken Ullyot used to tell his players that the puck could always move faster than any skater. He was trying to convince them to pass the puck, and to have an idea what they were going to do with the puck before it ever came to them. What he was really trying to do was get them to think.
The current Fort Wayne Komets need to start thinking. And maybe do it for longer than one period at a time.
Don't believe it? Listen to Coach Gary Graham after Saturday's 3-1 loss to Toledo before 9,896 Memorial Coliseum fans.
"We lose because we take dumb penalties," Graham said. "We won't learn. Our team is a stubborn, stubborn group. Just bad, bad penalties. You cannot play the most disciplined team and the No. 1 team in the league and take bad penalties. Whether they score on them or not, we lost all that momentum, we had guys gassed..."
In three games between the teams this season, the Komets have scored one power-play goal on nine chances, and the Walleye have scored eight on 17 chances. Of course Toledo has won all three and now has a 10-point lead over Fort Wayne in the ECHL's Central Division.
Saturday was a much better effort until the Komets took five consecutive penalties in the second and third periods. They were penalties in retaliation, away from the play and totally unnecessary. They were stupid, selfish efforts which completely negated the good things Fort Wayne was doing.
"Again, I'm not one to sugarcoat things," Graham continued. "A loss is a loss, and until we figure out a way to beat these guys... it's a loss. It doesn't matter how good we play until we get two points against these guys.
"We can't play the gameplan for 60 minutes against these guys. We refuse to, and the only way you are going to beat that team is if you are committed to discipline and committed structurally to playing the gameplan for 60 minutes. That's too good of a team over there. You cannot beat those guys if you think you are going just go out there and show up and play whatever style you want to play. It's not going to happen."
Every time they play Toledo the Komets try to run-and-gun with the faster Walleye who, duh, always try to entice opponents into playing racehorse hockey. Whenever these teams meet, the Komets allow Toledo to dictate pace and style. They are convinced they can win that type of game, and their solution to any deficit is to try skating faster.
They also love carrying the puck instead of passing it ahead and that slows the pace, allows Toledo to dominate in the neutral zone and take off in transition. You can't beat the Walleye with dump and chase! They also can't keep their sticks to themselves, which has been their primary weakness for the last year-and-a-half as opponents are averaging one more power-play per game.
Don't think this is just one game, either. The Komets are 1-10-1 in Toledo's Huntington Center over the last 2 1/2 years. Remember two years ago when the Komets won their three home playoff games but lost the four in Toledo to get knocked out of the playoffs? Guess who the Komets could meet this spring if both teams survive the first round?
To beat the Walleye, they must control the pace and the puck on offense and keep pushing the Toledo forwards outside the faceoff dots defensively.
For the 85th time over the last two seasons, the Komets must make discipline a priority, not just against the Walleye. The Komets can get away with too many penalties on most nights, but not against quality teams like Allen or Toledo. As they proved last year, the Komets can't just turn on that discipline when the postseason starts.
It's not that hard to figure out, unless you are sitting in that locker room.
Right now the Walleye are simply the better team, and if the Komets want to maintain their "Championship or Bust" theme, playing Toledo's style won't work and taking too many penalties.
They need to start thinking.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at firstname.lastname@example.org.