J.C. Campagna scored in his return to the Komets’ lineup. That’s not all that surprising; the forward is the team’s leading goal scorer.
Cody Sol scored, too, but that’s not nearly as big a part of the defenseman’s game.
Prolific returns to the lineup aside, it wasn’t a good night for the Komets, who lost 5-2 to the Cincinnati Cyclones in front of 7,449 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“We weren’t good enough. I think it was a combination of a lot of different things,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “They were good on the power play and they capitalized, they seemed to be scoring the goals tonight and we weren’t. We had a lot of penalties. It was a tough game for us.
“My message to the guys was we have to forget about this one. We know we’ve got to be better. We can’t sit here and dwell about this or that. We’ve got to forget about that, learn from it, put it behind us. We’ve got some big games coming up here.’
Cincinnati scored on 2 of 6 power plays and Fort Wayne 1 of 4.
(Video highlights are above.)
Michael Houser stopped 18 shots for the conference-leading Cyclones (21-6-4), though he may have gotten away with kicking the net off its moorings to negate a goal in the second period against his former team. Lukas Hafner stopped 24 shots for Fort Wayne (15-13-1).
Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham was ejected by referee Sean Fernandez for arguing that a check on Brady Shaw should have been called in the waning minutes, and Fernandez also gave misconducts to Sol and Campagna on a night that the fans, as has become customary, let Fernandez know he’s certainly not their favorite official.
“The biggest thing you want to see is consistency, no matter what time of the game it is, no matter when it is,” said Graham, ejected for only the second time in his career. “Sometimes, when it seems like it’s being taken personally against you, that’s when I get frustrated.”
The Komets play at 7:15 p.m. Sunday in Toledo, Ohio, then return to the Coliseum for the annual New Year’s Eve game 7:30 p.m. Monday against the Brampton Beast.
The Komets will have Taylor Crunk back Sunday, after he served his two-game suspension for blindsiding Toledo’s A.J. Jenks, though Fort Wayne’s leading scorer, Justin Hodgman, must still serve one game of his two-game suspension for taking a baseball-like swing at Kalamazoo’s Tanner Sorenson in Thursday’s 2-1 victory at the Coliseum.
Sol returned to the Komets’ lineup after missing 10 games with a knee injury and Campagna was back after missing five games with an eye injury suffered in a fight with Wichita’s Dyson Stevenson. Consequently, the Komets waived defenseman Brandon Lubin and forward Joseph Widmar, after both had re-signed with the team for one game apiece.
“We’ve got to get everybody on the same page, get everybody going,” Graham said. “I changed up the lines in the third period there, I didn’t like the chemistry too much with some lines. With Hodgie out, we’ve got to throw out some different things. We had a problem earlier in the year of having too many centermen; now we don’t have enough and had (Schaafsma) in there. He battled and worked hard in there, though.”
The Komets wore special “Double Dare” jerseys as part of a league-wide partnership with Nickelodeon and they were auctioned off to benefit police, fire and emergency medical services charities.
The Cyclones opened the scoring on the game’s first shot, a Pascal Aquin wrister from the right circle that slipped inside the far post 2:01 into the first period.
Campagna, who has 15 goals in 23 games, tied it at 1 during a power play at 11:10 by snapping a shot from the top of the right circle that took advantage of a Jake Kamrass screen to elude Houser.
With the Komets penalized for having too many men on the ice, Cincinnati’s Alex Wideman netted a power-play goal with a one-timer from the bottom of the right circle 6:38 into the second period.
And a turnover by the Komets as they entered the offensive zone quickly turned into a goal at the other end, where Aquin sent a shot from 30 feet out past Hafner for a 3-1 lead at 14:22.
Cincinnati’s Nate Mitton made it 4-1 with a short-handed goal at 17:17 when his 15-foot shot crept underneath Hafner, as Arvin Atwal was continuing to dig his stick under the netminder’s pads.
Sol’s goal came on a shot from 50 feet out 8:25 into the third period, though Eric Knodel cemented the scoring with a power-play goal for the Cyclones.
Notes: With Zach Fucale still playing for Canada in Davos, Switzerland, at the Spengler Cup, the Komets’ goaltending carousel continues. Eric Levine, who had been backing up Hafner, was called to Cleveland of the American Hockey League to be a backup, leaving the Komets scrambling for a replacement and they found one in Snider-graduate Luke Richardson, who still plays recreationally. Levine is expected back today.