The Komets got caught being too aggressive in the offensive zone, and that led to a plethora of odd-man rushes. They also coughed up the puck in dangerous territories, leaving goaltender Patrick Munson defenseless too often, and squandered some Grade A scoring chances by trying to make one too many passes.
All of this symbolized a team trying to do too much in a 6-3 loss to the Tulsa Oilers, who got a hat trick from Adam Pleskach and two goals from Robby Jackson at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.
“We pride ourselves on playing the right way,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “I think we all know where we're at and we're trying and trying and trying. Maybe we're trying a little too hard. We're working hard but not smart. We've got to work smarter.”
The announced crowd of 10,567 – larger than capacity – was on hand for Wizarding World Night, otherwise known as Harry Potter Night. But it didn't have much to cheer for as the Komets fell behind 5-1 before goals from Brett McKenzie and Taylor Doherty made things interesting late.
“It's tough to point your finger at just one thing. There's plenty there to clean up,” captain A.J. Jenks said. “At the same time, there's plenty of things we did really well, too. It's just a matter of cleaning up those mistakes and bearing down when we do have those opportunities, and making good on them.”
The Komets came into the weekend in third place in the division but have dropped into the fourth and final playoff spot with 25 games left in the regular season. Fort Wayne is three points back of the Indy Fuel with the teams meeting at 3 p.m. today at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
“It seems like every little mistake we make is ending up in the back of our net right now,” Jenks said. “And we're really having to work for offense and we're not getting many bounces, so we're going to have to keep plugging away, keep playing a gritty, dirty game. And we've got to make sure we play the full 60 minutes without taking any shifts off.”
The Komets (21-18-8), who are 2-4-3 in their last nine games, also got a goal from Drake Rymsha and 28 saves from Munson. The Oilers (22-23-6) got 37 saves from Olle Eriksson Ek and a goal from Deven Sideroff.
Fort Wayne allowed a multitude of odd-man rushes, including Jackson slipping behind Chaz Reddekopp to put a move on Munson for a 1-0 lead, and Pleskach scoring at the end of a 2-on-1 rush for a 2-0 lead after Fort Wayne turned the puck over at the offensive blue line. Pleskach's second goal, for a 5-1 lead at 10:55 of the third period, came after Doherty gave up the puck behind his own net.
“We're going back to maybe the first 20 games of the season, what a common problem (defense) was, so it's tough,” said Boudreau, adding Rymsha, McKenzie and Shawn Szydlowski were the only consistent offensive presences for Fort Wayne.
“Everybody is trying to figure it out. Everybody is trying to fight their way out of it. Right now, I think everybody is gripping the stick too tight. We had a lot of chances to come back in the second and we just didn't score. We just didn't bear down in front of the net.”