FORT WAYNE – Eight points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with only six games remaining in the regular season, the Komets’ chances of making the postseason for the 11th straight season are miniscule.
The quest to make the seemingly impossible happen continues tonight, though, against the Reading Royals at Memorial Coliseum.
We are going to play a very good team and have to be ready, forward Matt Syroczynski said of the Royals, who are 42-18-6 and atop the conference.
Fort Wayne (32-31-3) has been playing its best hockey of 2013, winning back-to-back games and three of the last four. It had its season high in goal production in its last game, an 8-5 victory over the Evansville IceMen on Sunday night.
But it was probably too little, too late for the Komets, who are in their first ECHL season after winning four championships over five years in the IHL and CHL.
It just seems like we put ourselves in this position because of games that we should have won but didn’t, Syroczynski said, referencing games such as last Friday, when Fort Wayne outskated the Kalamazoo Wings all night but lost 3-2.
Right now, we’ve got to keep winning until they tell us we’re out, and we’ve got to keep pushing.
This season has been frustrating for general manager David Franke, who thought his group of CHL stars, Anaheim prospects and seasoned veterans would be fine in the ECHL, and for coach Al Sims, whose team has failed to score more than two goals in 35 of 66 games this season.
Sims was asked whether the players need to continue playing for jobs next season, but he said it’s even too late for that.
I think we’ve already done our evaluations, Sims said, regardless of how guys do the last (six) games. But you’ve got to show a lot of character and keep playing hard when you’re almost out of it. Stranger things have happened, and you owe it to yourself to give yourself an opportunity.
The Komets remain mathematically in the hunt for a playoff spot, but they not only have to catch eighth-place Toledo but also leapfrog Kalamazoo in the process.
Even the players admit, more than anything, they’re playing for pride at this point.
Hockey’s just not fun when you lose, said Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who has four goals and a shootout tally in the past two games.
Note: Defenseman Scott Kishel, who was suspended by the ECHL the last two games for a major boarding penalty in Kalamazoo, Mich., pending further review, has been given one more game for the offense. He will sit out tonight’s game.