FORT WAYNE – The Komets are only 11 percent of the way through their 72-game season. But after losing 6-2 to the Wheeling Nailers on Friday night at Memorial Coliseum – dropping the Komets to 2-4-2 – coach Gary Graham wanted his players to know they are 100 percent under scrutiny.
Everybody is playing for their jobs. That’s what it is right now. These guys have got to figure that out sooner rather than later because we’re not going to be (a team) where we get outbattled and outcompeted. That’s not something we’re going to let happen.
It didn’t take long for the Komets to shake things up. Shortly after the game they acquired Kenton Miller from the Utah Grizzlies for cash. A 22-year-old center, he was scoreless in six games this season with Utah.
Last season, he had 30 goals and 51 points in 53 games for the CHL’s Missouri Mavericks. He also skated six games with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, with whom he was scoreless.
He won’t be here in time for today’s game at division-leading Cincinnati (7-0-0).
Friday night, the Nailers twice recovered from one-goal deficits, got a hat trick from forward Carter Rowney and dropped Fort Wayne to 0-1-2 at the Coliseum in front of 7,419 fans.
That was a clinic. That was the worst game by us, by far, said Graham, whose team went up 2-1 on forward John Dunbar’s goal from the right circle 6:43 into the second period but then allowed a goal to forward Jack MacLellan just 15 seconds later.
(Letting down) is a big time identity thing by us. I’m not sure what it is.
The Nailers took a 3-2 lead on Rowney’s goal off a rebound at 11:30 of the second period, and he scored the same way 15 seconds after that.
Wheeling (3-3-1) put the game out of reach at 1:29 of the third, when a tic-tac-toe passing play that began at the blue line ended with forward Christian Minella slipping the puck past sprawled goalie Andrey Makarov. Rowney polished off his hat trick at 16:43 for a 6-2 lead.
It’s very frustrating. You put the work in and prep the guys, do everything you need to do. Hats off to Wheeling. They outbattled us and it was men against boys out there, said Graham, whose team’s first goal came from forward Scott Fleming after a battle in front of the net 8:57 into the first period.
That’s the only game that we’ve really been outworked in, said forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock. Before, I think we were outworking teams and putting ourselves in a position to win, but then just making the little mistake that cost us. Tonight was different. We got outworked in every aspect of the game. When you do that at this level, especially the way we’re playing right now, you’re going to get smoked. And that’s what happened.
Note: The Komets lost defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin to a head injury.