There were positives for the Komets on Saturday night, namely J.C. Campagna and Cody Sol scoring in their returns to the lineup. They were outweighed by the negatives, inconsistent play that led to turnovers, defensive lapses and penalties in a 5-2 loss to the conference-leading Cincinnati Cyclones.
“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.”
It was also a frustrating night for the 7,449 fans who jeered referee Sean Fernandez as they watched coach Gary Graham get ejected for only the second time in his career after arguing unsuccessfully that Brady Shaw was checked headfirst into the boards.
Campagna and Sol also got third-period misconducts, and Fort Wayne was given 50 of the game's 64 penalty minutes. Cincinnati scored on 2 of 7 power plays. Fort Wayne was 1 for 4.
“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, whose Komets (15-13-1) play at 7:15 p.m. today in Toledo before returning to the Coliseum for the 7:30 p.m. New Year's Eve game Monday against Brampton.
Michael Houser stopped 18 shots for the 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. Lukas Hafner stopped 24 shots for Fort Wayne.
The Komets will have Taylor Crunk back today, after he served his two-game suspension for blindsiding Toledo's A.J. Jenks. Justin Hodgman must still serve one game of his two-game suspension for taking a stick swing at Kalamazoo's Tanner Sorenson.
Sol (knee) returned after missing 10 games. Campagna (eye) missed five games.
“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.”
The Komets wore special “Double Dare” jerseys as part of a leaguewide 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 during a power play at 11:10 by snapping a shot from the top of the right circle.
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, when Aquin sent a shot from 30 feet out past Hafner.
Cincinnati's Nate Mitton made it 4-1 with a short-handed goal at 17:17 when his 15-foot shot crept underneath Hafner. Sol's goal then came on a shot from 50 feet out 8:25 into the third period.
Notes: With Zach Fucale playing for Canada at the Spengler Cup, the Komets' goaltending carousel continues. Eric Levine was called to Cleveland of the American Hockey League, leaving the Komets scrambling for a replacement. They found one in Snider graduate Luke Richardson. Levine is expected back today. ... The Komets waived defenseman Brandon Lubin and forward Joseph Widmar.