TOLEDO, Ohio – Let’s cover the wild penalty shot at the end first. To my understanding, the correct call was almost made by referee Stan Szczurek, who, by the way, really showed some courage to make the call in this situation.
Under Rule 53.6: “When any member of the defending team, including the coach or any non-playing person, throws or shoots any part of a stick or any other object or piece of equipment at the puck or puck carrier in his defending zone, the referee or linesman shall allow the play to be completed and if a goal is not scored, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.”
Sounds like he made the correct call to me. There is no doubt, and if you check my Twitter feed (@sportsicohn) there is video there of the play, that Brenden Kotyk tried to obstruct the play of Justin Kea. However, under that rule, the referee should have awarded the penalty shot to Kea. Instead, Justin Hodgman of the Komets got the shot. As we know now, Hodgman failed to score.
Others have told me, however, that a minor penalty should have been called. But I don’t know, I’m just reading the rule book here. It’s such a rare call.
Regardless, the Toledo Walleye emerged with a 3-2 victory that dropped Fort Wayne to 1-5-0 this season. Ouch.
“Oh, man, it’s crazy. When things aren’t going your way, it’s tough,” said Hodgman, who helped give Fort Wayne a 2-1 lead in the second period by sending a cross-ice pass to Marco Roy for a goal into an open net. “We played a good game. I don’t even know what to say right now. I believe in this group. I really do. There are a lot of new guys. The effort is there. That’s a good (Toledo) team and this is a good division. We’re still early in the year. It’s hockey.”
I don’t know if I’m supposed to write this, but I felt like this was undoubtedly Fort Wayne’s best game and really something to build on. I drove out here thinking the Komets were going to get torched, based on Friday’s 7-3 loss, and they showed a lot of grit.
This felt like a playoff game, just one that they had a couple bad penalties that haunted them.
“I loved the effort. I thought the guys gave a lot. Both teams did. The fights, the competitiveness from both sides was there. It just came down to some discipline problems for us tonight,” Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. “It just goes to show that everything is really tight right now. We have to be damn near flawless right now to get us out of this funk. And when you’re in a funk, that’s the way it has to be.”
Fort Wayne finished 1 for 3 on power plays and Toledo was 1 for 4.
“When you take undisciplined penalties, they’re the hardest ones to kill because they really deflate the bench – especially right now when everyone is trying to give everything and we’re preaching ‘discipline,’” Graham said.
Will there be changes before the next game? I don’t know. Nothing would shock me. But it didn’t quite sound like it. Yet.
The Komets play host to Indy and Kalamazoo on Friday and Saturday, as they continue their season-opening stretch of eight-straight divisional games.
“I love every guy in there, but at the end of the day this is a results-driven industry and we’re not getting the job done, myself included,” Graham said. “We’re all in this together here. We’ve got four days of practice to prepare for two big home games before we go on the road. We’ve got to get this thing figure out here on home ice. We’ve got to get our game figured out and play in front of our fans and be ready and sharp and that’s where our focus is now.”
More from Hodgman: “I believe in this group. I think we have the right personnel. We have the right coaching staff and I know we have the right systems. We just need one win to go our way and then things will start rolling.”