FORT WAYNE – The Komets scored arguably the prettiest goal of their season. There was a 3-on-3 rush and right wing Brandon Marino fell to the ice, but he was able to send a no-look pass from his stomach to center Brett Smith, who zinged the puck across the slot to left wing Mike Hoban who blasted it into the net.
Unfortunately for the Komets, that’s about where the good news ended Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
With their first opportunity since Day 1 of the season to move into first place in the North Division, the Komets lost 5-3 to the Toledo Walleye, which had been on a five-game winless streak.
The Komets’ record at the Coliseum, where there were 8,292 fans and where they average an ECHL-best 7,402 per game, dropped to 10-12-0.
And to make matters worse, two players cut by the Komets (22-18-2) – Patrick Knowlton and Stephon Thorne – set up the winning goal in the third period. Knowlton won a 70-foot race to the puck and got a pass to Thorne, who set up Cody Lampl for a goal and a 4-1 lead at 13:45 of the third period.
All-Star defenseman Daniel Maggio and forward Luca Caputi scored late to make it respectable, but Walleye (20-16-4) right wing Willie Coetzee’s second goal cemented the victory with 35 seconds remaining.
It was too late, Maggio said. We just had breakdown after breakdown in our own end, and we weren’t good enough in front of (goaltender Kenny Reiter).
Reiter (12-7-1) had won five straight starts. He stopped 23 of 28 shots as Fort Wayne lost for the second time in its last five games.
Toledo goalie Kent Simpson (8-8-3) stopped 24 of 27 shots.
We couldn’t handle Kyle Rogers’ line all night. Every time they were out there – Rogers, (Doug) Clarkson and (Randy) Rowe – we just couldn’t handle them in our end, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. That line combined for no goals and two assists. They’re big, physical and they out-physically (played) us tonight big time.
Hoban, who began the season with Dayton of the lower-level Federal Hockey League, had scored three straight goals over three straight games for the Komets. That included two game-winners and the second-period beauty Friday. In 13 games, he has four goals and an assist.
You can’t say enough about what he’s done, Sims said. He seems to come up with one every night. He finds a way to get it done, and he’s been really good for us since he came.
Tonight at Kalamazoo, Mich., the Komets finish a grueling stretch of 25 games in 44 days.
Hopefully we can get a win and go into the (All-Star) break and get some rest, Sims said.
Notes: A first-period Smith goal was disallowed by referee Chris Pitoscia because it was ruled Smith swatted the puck with his glove. There will be a game between Komets and Toledo alumni Feb. 17 in Toledo before the game between the Komets and Walleye. The alumni game will be at 2 p.m. and the professional game at 5 p.m. There will be $15 tickets for the doubleheader.