The Komets’ season is over.
A 4-1 loss to the Toledo Walleye sent them out of the playoffs 4-2 in the Central Division semifinal series.
Even though the Komets have been to the playoffs 20 times in 22 seasons, winning five championships along the way, difficult decisions are going to have to be made by management about everyone from coach Gary Graham (who has one year left on his contract), to his assistants and, of course, the players.
This is the first time the Komets have failed to advance to the second round since 2013, their first season in the ECHL and the last time they missed the postseason.
While most ECHL teams would love the kind of success and consistency the Komets have had since then, pressure from the fans and management’s desire to win a championship will certainly mean a hard look will be taken at everything and everyone.
“I think we have a good nucleus and a good group of guys,” J.C. Campagna said. “This is one of the tightest dressing rooms I’ve been a part of. Everyone likes each other. We all get along and do everything together. It’s just about finding a way to get offense. Sometimes we deviated from our plan; if we got down by a couple goals we thought we had to change stuff. … There’s just got to be a losing team. If you look around the league, some good teams are losing.”
The running line about the Komets this season is that the only thing that’s consistent is their inconsistency.
In that respect, maybe it’s not surprising that they came out so lackadaisical and were outshot 44-24 on home ice, after they had won 5-3 at Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday.
But still, the lack of energy until the second period, when Jamie Schaafsma and Shawn Szydlowski checks seemed to change the scope of the game for a bit, well, that’s got to deciphered.
“They made it tough on us (early),” Schaafsma said. “They clogged up the ice for us. It was kind of a real boring game, a lot of pucks on the outside. But they were finding ways to get pucks at (Fucale) and get pucks to the net, while we struggled to do that.”
Graham added: “It took us a little bit longer to get going tonight than I would have liked. They had the early jump by far; their first period was tremendous and ours was not. We finally got some life when we tied it up on the power play and started playing some better hockey.”
There was universal praise for Zach Fucale, who stopped 40 shots to keep the Komets in it. That included 12 first-period scoring chances from the slot area.
“Toledo is a good hockey team,” Fucale said. “We had a good battle. We bounced back after a couple of losses early in the series and we fought, we fought hard. Toledo just had the better of us tonight. They were the better team today.”
But Fucale, who is on a one-year contract with the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights, expressed that maybe he could have stopped some more shots.
"I made mistakes," he said. "My job is to give the team a chance to win every night. I made some mistakes, man, but that's part of the game. No matter what the situation is in front of me, my job is to stop as many pucks as possible.
Toledo will now face the Cincinnati Cyclones, backed by Pat Nagle (23 saves), who finally got a series victory in this rivalry after losing with the Komets in 2015 and 2017 and with the Walleye in 2018.
“I just thought they defended extremely well,” Graham said. “We struggled to generate offense the entire season and we struggled to score in this series.”
Three of Toledo’s goals were results of turnovers by the Komets, and that was nothing new. But the teams still were tied at 1 after Brady Shaw’s power-play goal in the second period.
Even after Toledo regained the lead on the first of Dylan Sadowy’s three goals – this came off a turnover with Sadowy putting his own rebound over Fucale – the Komets had chances to get back into it.
That included Anthony Petruzzelli getting the puck inches from the goal line during a scramble in front of the net, and a Shaw breakaway that saw him getting slashed by Ryan Obuchowski, resulting in a power play instead of a penalty shot, despite the Komets’ objections.
Reminder: The annual end-of-season party will be Thursday at the Coliseum with the jersey auction starting at 7 p.m.