The Fort Wayne Komets will find out very early in tonight's game against Evansville whether they are facing their first major slump of the season.
After losing 6-2 on Nov. 10 at Kalamazoo, the Komets again came out flatter than a new road in Friday night's 2-1 loss to Toledo before 7.303 Memorial Coliseum fans. Well, actually, there was one person who definitely wasn't a fan.
``We just didn't generate enough offense and play enough in their end,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``Our team wasn't in sync most of the night. I can't put my finger on it, but the puck was out of reach, the puck wasn't there and Toledo played well. They made us play in our own zone a lot.''
Just like the Komets did earlier this month in two wins at Toledo, the Walleye played patiently, waited for Fort Wayne turnovers and won the game with two power-play goals. After taking a tripping call earlier in the play, Komets defenseman Daniel Maggio earned a cross-checking major against Toledo's Byron Froese before the whistle blew. That gave the Walleye a seven-minute advantage, part of which turned into a two-man advantage when goaltender Kenny Reiter was called for slashing.
As part of the power play, Terry Broadhurst scored to break a 0-0 tie early in the third period, and Joey Martin scored another power-play goal after Kaleigh Schrock was nailed for unsportsmanlike conduct on a dive that even Olympic great Greg Louganis would have agreed was a total flop. Schrock pirouetted to the ice 10 feet away from the nearest Walleye when ``The Nutcracker'' ballet moves won't be in fashion for another month.
``They forced us into drawing penalties, and we had no discipline in the penalty department at all,'' Sims said. ``These referees in this league don't care if it's 12 penalties to 1, 10 penalties to 1, if you are taking penalties that are penalties, they are going to call them. Most of our penalties were penalties.''
Finally finding some energy, the Komets tried to rally late. With Reiter sitting on the bench for the extra attacker, Colin Chaulk poked in a rebound with 1:53 left to give Fort Wayne a chance. The Komets had a glorious opportunity in the final seconds when Brett Smith set up Thomas Beauregard in front, but a Toledo defenseman threw his stick out at the last second to slow down the momentum of Beauregard's shot and allow goaltender Jordan Pearce to make the save.
``(Brandon) Marino threw the puck to the net, and I saw Beau on the slot and I slid it back to him,'' Komets center Brett Smith said. ``I think it was just a collision of sticks. If he could have gotten it to roll to the net, it's going in, no doubt.''
Beauregard thought so, too.
``It was so close,'' he said. ``It was like stick-on-stick, and I really thought that was my chance. It would have been a real good comeback. We were really working hard to get that second goal, but the good thing is we don't have to think about it too long.''
But another sloppy, uninspired performance tonight and there won't be any Thanksgiving next week for the Komets, who will have lost three games in a row for the first time this season. Instead, they'll likely be too tired after practices to eat.
``It's not good enough,'' Smith said. ``We can't have mad scrambles in the final minutes. We have to play a whole game and stay out of the penalty box. We get no momentum because too many penalties killed us.''