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Smith guarantees playoffs for K's

And he does so after another poor start

CINCINNATI -- After the Komets lost for the fourth time in six games, and played woefully for the first 50 minutes of a 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones, alternate captain Brett Smith guaranteed Fort Wayne will make the playoffs.

“It’s unacceptable,” Smith said the Komets’ habitual slow starts, which have left them in a three-way tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, when the top eight will make the playoffs.

“This team is going to make the playoffs. I’m going to say it right now. This team is making the playoffs and I’m going to do everything possible to make it happen. Everyone is on board. We’re going to battle hard and we’re going to find a way. What you saw in the last 10 minutes, hopefully that’s what’s to come. That’s what we need to do or we’re going home early.”

The Komets' lone goal came from Brandon Marino.

Fort Wayne gave up 15 of the first 18 shots on goal, which included the two Cincinnati goals.

Overall, the shots were 29-21.

It was interesting to watch the differences between the teams. Cincinnati finished its checks. Fort Wayne turned the puck over all night. Cincinnati swarmed the net. Fort Wayne complained to the referee repeatedly.

Two Fort Wayne goals were waved off because of early whistles, but, as Smith said: You can't make excuses.

“I just said to these guys, ‘The game is not a light switch. You can’t turn it on and off like that,’” Smith said. “That last 10 minutes was gorgeous to watch but we just didn’t find a way. Could that have been a goal near the end when there was a quick whistle (on a power play)? Maybe. But we can’t make excuses. We have to play 60 minutes.”

Oddly, coach Al Sims had positive things to say after the game. I don't know if he's trying a new tactic this season, after not being afraid to be harsh in analysis the last few seasons, or if there's just a disconnect between what he was seeing and what I think was happening.

WOWO's Bob Chase was shredding them all night. I didn't see anything positive in the first 50 minutes except Smith's hustle, Marco Cousineau's goaltending and some good plays from Matt Firman. Cincinnati staff were asking me: "What's going on with Fort Wayne?"

Even the players said they were awful for most of the game.

It has been the same old story. Over and over and over again.

“Very good (performance), excellent,” Sims said. “For the third game in a row, we were a man short, and to get the effort like that out of the guys is great. … Being short-handed and four games in six nights, the guys gave it everything they had.”

OK, they've played short. And the schedule has been rough.

But what about those all-too-familiar mantras from the Komets' locker room: "Tired is for losers" and "AA hockey is AA hockey" and all that?

Plus, in the last week, they only played on back-to-back nights once. And why are they playing short when they drove past Dayton and their Single-A affiliate to get here?

General manager David Franke wasn't here to see the game. That's good for the players. I know management hasn't been pleased, and this would have intensified it.

But Smith is correct; Fort Wayne looked good in the last 10 minutes and needs to build off that. I agree with him that the Komets will make the playoffs. But, based on what I've seen in the last two games, I have no faith they will be in it long.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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