FORT WAYNE – This wasn’t how new Komets coach Gary Graham had it scripted – that story would have culminated with a victory – but he got a point in the standings and the confidence that his team will be fine moving forward.
“I thought we outplayed them. I thought we were the better team,” Graham said, after the Komets lost 4-3 to the Toledo Walleye in an overtime shootout Saturday night.
Statistically, the Komets looked solid in their 62nd season opener, played in front of 9,676 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
Fort Wayne had 13 more shots than the Walleye, which got a Scott Arnold goal during a 5-on-3 power play and another when Nik Pokulok made a foolish pass in front of his own net and Trevor Parkes redirected it in.
And Fort Wayne had the best player on the ice: forward Mickey Lang, who had a power-play goal at 1:29 of the first period, a goal that tied it at 3 at 15:30 of the third period when he whacked the puck out of midair and also the Komets’ only shootout tally.
“For the majority of the game, I thought we played pretty good,” Lang said. “We just didn’t capitalize on a few chances, and there were a few penalties that were questionable and didn’t go our way. But we battled back, tied it up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, though.”
Left wing Chris Auger had the other Komets goal, a 40-foot shorthanded goal at 16:39 of the second period. In the shootout, Auger, Simon Danis-Pepin, Tristan King and John Dunbar were all foiled by goaltender Mac Carruth.
Graham would like the Komets, who don’t play again until Saturday’s visit by Cincinnati, to get more traffic in front of the opposing net.
“The biggest thing that I saw was when we work the puck low to high, we weren’t getting traffic on those point shots quick enough,” Graham said. “We were getting there, but we were too late. That’s a big (6-foot-3) goaltender and an athletic goaltender. There’s a reason why he led Portland in the (Western Hockey League) deep in to the playoffs last year. Their goaltender played well.
“But I thought we were the better team, and I’m most disappointed that we don’t get a chance to respond tomorrow.”
Last season, when the Komets went 33-35-4 and missed the playoffs in their first ECHL season, they were 16-20-0 at the Coliseum. They do not want to be so fallible again.
“I like the way that we played tonight, especially for it being our first game and against a very good Toledo team, with a good crop of players back from last season,” said Graham, whose Komets have only six players back from last season.
“It’s nothing to hang our heads about. We played well in front of a big crowd, and we outhit them, outscoring-chanced them, and the stats don’t lie. We just didn’t get that second point we were looking for.”
Travis Novak had the Walleye’s other goal in regulation. Toledo got shootout goals from Daniel Koger and Arnold, who won it in the fifth round.
Goaltender John Muse stopped 18 of 21 shots and 3 of 5 shootout attempts. Carruth stopped 32 of 35 and 4 of 5.
There was a first-period fight between defenseman Jeremy Gates and Stephon Thorne, who helped the Komets to the 2012 CHL championship.