Despite losing for the fifth time in a six games, Komets coach Al Sims spoke in defense of his players Saturday night at Memorial Coliseum.
“The guys are working as hard as they can,” Sims said, after a 4-2 loss to the Toledo Walleye, in front of 7,526 fans.
“I can’t say anything about the effort. It was unbelievable, the effort we put out. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get rewarded. But we didn’t get any bounces.”
Actually, that’s not entirely the case.
Down 1-0 in the second period, with the Walleye on a power play, former Notre Dame goalie Jordan Pearce dangerously left the puck near his net – either because he didn’t know a Komet was coming, or because he was in danger of playing it outside the trapezoid and getting a penalty – and Matt Firman picked it up and slipped it into the bottom of the net.
It was the first short-handed goal given up by Toledo this season.
“I was three-quarters of the way down the ice then I realized what was going on; the puck had stopped in the dead area and I was the first guy to get to the puck. Then, I tried to make something happen,” Firman said.
But the Walleye (10-7-1) answered with a Luke Glendening goal at 13:19. It was Glendening’s third goal in four games against Fort Wayne this season.
The Komets (8-7-1) tied it again, with Firman netting a wrist shot from the left circle in the third period.
But as the Fort Wayne fans chirped for a Walleye penalty for too many men on the ice, Willie Coetzee netted the game-winner at 11:20. Andrej Nestrasil added an empty-net goal to cinch it.
Both goalies – Pearce and Fort Wayne’s Charlie Effinger – made 23 saves.
“Charlie really didn’t have much of an opportunity (to make saves), I don’t think, on any of the Toledo goals,” Sims said.
The game started with much excitement; as there was some holdover from the last meeting, a 2-1 loss at the Coliseum on Nov. 16, in which Fort Wayne’s Daniel Maggio cross-checked Byron Froese in the face and got a game misconduct and a one-game suspension from the ECHL for it.
Just over a minute into the game Saturday, Maggio fought Joey Ryan. Maggio got a game misconduct for removing his elbow pad prior to the fight, under Rule 46.12. (In the CHL last season, the same offense brought a 10-minute misconduct for Stephon Thorne.)
Adding insult to injury, 40 seconds after Maggio was ejected and hit a concrete wall in anger, Froese’s pass from behind the Fort Wayne net set up Terry Broadhurst for a goal and a 1-0 lead.
The Komets’ offense, which has 11 goals in the last six games, sputtered with 10 shots through the first half of the game.
“Our defensemen were dying, I mean dying (of fatigue), and that made it really tough. We were already short six guys (because of injuries and the call-up of Nick Schaus) and now it was seven with Maggio going out of the game,” Sims said.
Note: The Komets hope to have defenseman Ryan Hegarty back from his hand injury in time for Wednesday’s game at Gwinnett (Ga.), where they also play Friday night.