The Komets had almost nothing on the line Saturday night – just a minimal chance of getting the second seed in the Western Conference – and it showed.
They finished their 69th regular season with a makeshift lineup and a 6-0 loss to the Utah Grizzlies at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah.
Charlie Gerard had four goals for the Grizzlies. Teammate Parker Gahagen stopped all 23 shots he faced, one night after his team was trounced 9-1 by the Komets.
The Komets will face the Wichita Thunder in a first-round, best-of-5 Western Conference semifinal series, thanks to the Allen Americans capturing the Western Conference's regular-season title Saturday.
The Komets (29-17-5) are the third seed in the conference, though the difference between second and third doesn't matter for purposes of the first round: Fort Wayne will have a 2-3 formatted series that begins with games on the road Tuesday and Wednesday, before Game 3 at Memorial Coliseum 8 p.m. Friday. Wichita had to give up a home game because of scheduling conflicts at both its main and practice arenas.
The Komets and Thunder last met in the playoffs in the 2012 Central Hockey League finals, won 4-1 by Fort Wayne before it left for the ECHL.
The Florida Everblades won the Brabham Cup as the ECHL's regular-season champions.
As they try to mend injuries and rest players, the Komets played with only 17 men – two short of a full lineup – against fourth-place Utah (35-26-11). The Komets were without A.J. Jenks, Shawn Szydlowski (hand), Robbie Beydoun (knee), Marcus McIvor (groin), Nick Boka, Matthew Boudens and Morgan Adams-Moisan.
Jason Kapelmaster stopped 24 of 30 shots for the Komets.
The Grizzlies opened up a 1-0 lead when Gerard chipped a backhand shot, off a rebound, above Kapelmaster 11:08 into the first period. Gerard made it 2-0 when his 15-footer slipped just inside the crossbar 6:41 into the second period, as Utah had 14 of the game's 19 shots on goal at that point.
The Grizzlies' Matthew Boucher netted a shot from the right circle, taking advantage of a teammate's screen of Kapelmaster, to make it 3-0 at 9:42. And Gerard polished off his hat trick at the end of an odd-man rush for a 4-0 lead at 13:40.
In the third period, Utah got goals from Gerard and Travis Barron (short-handed).
Komets vs. Wichita
Game 1: Tuesday, at Wichita, 8 p.m.
Game 2: Wednesday, at Wichita, 8 p.m.
Game 3: Friday, at Memorial Coliseum, 8 p.m.
Game 4: Saturday, at Memorial Coliseum, 7:30 p.m.*
Game 5: June 14, at Memorial Coliseum, 7:30 p.m.*