If the Komets hope to get home-ice advantage in the postseason – assuming they make the playoffs – then time is running out.
They lost 3-2 tonight to the Cincinnati Cyclones, who have already clinched the Central Division title and lead the entire ECHL, and Fort Wayne remains nine points back of the Toledo Walleye for second place in the division.
The Walleye has given Fort Wayne opportunities lately to make up ground, losing two of their last three games, including a 2-0 loss tonight to the Brampton Beast, but the Komets have lost back-to-back games at home.
The Komets’ lead over the Kalamazoo Wings for third place remains at one point, though Fort Wayne has nine games remaining in the regular season and the Wings have eight.
A crowd of 9,123 was on hand at Memorial Coliseum.
The Cyclones have 12 players contracted to teams in either the NHL or Triple-A American Hockey League. The Komets have only one, Phelix Martineau, as goaltender Zach Fucale is up with Chicago of the AHL.
The Komets played without all-star forward Justin Hodgman, who has 13 goals and 48 points in 44 games, because of a foot injury.
Before the game, the Komets added to their roster goaltender Alex Dubeau, forward Anthony Nellis and forward Gage Torrell. Dubeau had been with the University of New Brunswick, where he won three University Cups, and he was MVP of the playoff tournament this year. He was 15-6-0 with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage this season. Nellis had 15 goals and 33 points in 38 games for Lake Superior State, where Torrel had seven goals and 25 points in 38 games.
Nellis assisted on the game’s first goal, scored by Fort Wayne’s J.C. Campagna on a shot from the left circle during a power play 6:09 into the first period. It was Campagna’s 34th goal in 55 games since joining the Komets, pulling him into a tie with Allen’s Zach Pochiro for the ECHL goal-scoring lead.
Then the physical play picked up, highlighted by a check from Fort Wayne’s Josh Elmes that was so big, it took the ECHL’s leading point scorer, Jesse Schultz, entirely off his feet and into a position horizontal along the glass, though Elmes got an interference penalty at 13:46.
(Video of it is above.)
Cincinnati’s Mike Marnell tied it at 1 by snapping the puck from the right circle past Fort Wayne netminder Eric Levine during a power play 5:07 into the second period. And Cincinnati’s Ben Johnson netted a goal by getting around defenseman Sean Flanagan and flicking a backhand shot past Levine while the Cyclones were skating short-handed at 6:55.
Cincinnati’s third breakaway of the period resulted in a 3-1 lead; Myles Powell blocked a shot by Elmes and then beat Levine stick-side at 10:52.
Fort Wayne's Brady Shaw jammed in a rebound at 19:46 of the third period.
The Komets play 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the Indy Fuel in Indianapolis and 5:15 p.m. Sunday against the Toledo Walleye in Toledo, Ohio.
Levine stopped 19 shots. Cincinnati's Ty Rimmer stopped 22.
Notes: ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin was at the game. … Chris Pontes was the referee. … The Komets played without Chase Stewart, Cody Sol and Trey Phillips. … Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma played defense, instead of forward, for a second straight game.