The Komets opened the tonight game with maybe their best period of the season.
It didn’t last.
The Komets squandered a three-goal lead in the horrendous second half of the second period and lost 6-4 to the Wheeling Nailers in front of 1,850 fans at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.
The Komets’ hopes of catching Toledo for second place in the Central Division are almost nil – seven points back with five games left in the regular season – and Fort Wayne is up only three points up on fourth-place Kalamazoo. Sixth-place Wheeling, meanwhile, is five points back of Kalamazoo for the division’s final playoff spot.
Anthony Nellis scored twice for the Komets (33-24-10). And rookie goaltender Alex Dubeau fell to 2-1-1, stopping 28 of 33 shots.
The Komets tallied nine of the first 10 shots, but the Nailers (30-29-8) netted the first goal when Yushiroh Hirano went almost the length of the ice with the puck and snapped a high shot.
Fort Wayne’s Anthony Petruzzelli tied it 38 seconds later – 9:40 into the first period – when he skated out of the corner, sent a backhand shot off goalie Matt O’Connor, then whacked the rebound underneath the netminder.
J.C. Campagna, who had sat out two of the previous three games with a hip injury, put Fort Wayne up 2-1 with a shot from an almost impossible angle in the left corner that slipped over O’Connor’s shoulder at 15:39.
Nellis netted his first professional goal at the end of a 2-on-1 rush to give the Komets a 3-1 lead late in the first period, in which they outshot the Nailers 24-9. It was the most shots the Komets have had this season, bettering the 22 in the third period of a 6-5 overtime loss to Kalamazoo on Feb. 14.
Nellis netted another shot, from the left circle, to give Fort Wayne a 4-1 lead 9:21 into the second period. But then things fell apart, the Nailers finishing the period with goals from Zac Lynch, Cedric Lacroix, Lucas Kohls and Alec Butcher to take a 5-4 lead.
Winston Day Chief cemented the game with a late empty-net goal. And O’Connor stopped 43 shots.
The Komets were without their all-star forward, Justin Hodgman.
Notes: Former Indiana Tech hockey players Alex Gregorich and Brian Skillicorn joined the Federal Hockey League’s Port Huron Prowlers, giving the Warriors’ national championship team three players now in the pro ranks. Jarrett Pfeiffer is with Quad City of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Gregorich had an assist in a 5-4 victory over Carolina tonight.