The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 21, 2020 1:00 am

K's put emphasis on smarter play

Defense plagued by odd-man rushes

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Just because you see an opening doesn't mean you should take it. That's a lesson the Komets' defensemen are still trying to learn.

They're too often apt to make an aggressive play in the offensive zone. But if it doesn't work out, they can get caught up ice and it leads to a scoring opportunity for the opposing team.

Hence, the abundance of odd-man rushes the Fort Wayne defense has given up all season.

“We're a talented (defensive) corps, and a lot of us can make plays,” defenseman Max Gottlieb said. “So we want to get up ice, and create offense, and help out as much as we can. Sometimes, that burns us.

“Maybe it's just a little bit of maturity, knowing when to do that, and I'm sure we'll figure that out.”

The Komets' defensive lapses have been the Achilles' heel for a 25-20-8 team that is entrenched in third place in the Central Division – five points back of Toledo and three points up on Indy – heading into today's 8 p.m. game at Memorial Coliseum against the Walleye (29-14-5) and Saturday's 7:30 p.m. game there against the Fuel (26-23-3).

“(Defense) is definitely in the back of our minds,” Gottlieb said. “If we clean that up, we'll start blowing a lot of teams out. It's about maintaining a consistent effort for 60 minutes.”

That has been a consistent talking point for the Komets, who have won four of five games.

In Wednesday's 5-4 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings, the Komets had a lukewarm second period in which they squandered a two-goal lead.

“Our biggest focus is finding a way to get a good defensive game for 60 minutes because scoring goals has never been our problem, especially with guys getting back in the lineup (from injuries),” coach Ben Boudreau said.

“But we're back to that first quarter of the season where we've got to score five goals to win, and that's not a good recipe for long-term success.”

Fort Wayne, which has a 20-12-6 record within the division, is 0-5-2 against Toledo. The Komets, who have 19 games left in the regular season, face the Walleye six more times.

“We're still looking for that full 60-minute effort, for sure,” Komets captain A.J. Jenks said. “We've got to make sure we get rid of these lapses we're having, a period at a time or so, and make sure we're sticking to our game plan and doing things the way they're supposed to be done.”

Notes: The Komets' Kyle Haas was suspended two games by the ECHL for his part in a postgame fracas Wednesday. Kalamazoo's Ben Wilson was suspended one game for fighting Haas, who had been back only two games from a six-game ECHL suspension. Fort Wayne's Shawn Szydlowski and Gabriel Verpaelst were fined an undisclosed amount, as was Kalamazoo's Garret Ross. ... The Komets also lost forward Drake Rymsha, who was called up to the American Hockey League's Ontario Reign on Thursday. He has eight goals and 15 points in 18 ECHL games.


vs. Toledo

When: 8 p.m. today

vs. Indy

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Coliseum

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

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