Fort Wayne Komets fans are getting sick of games with close calls but no answers.
There continue to be no answers for the team's abysmal home record. If the Komets were producing close to a few regular home wins they'd easily hold first place in the ECHL's North Division. Instead, no one can figure out why they can't win back-to-back games at Memorial Coliseum.
With a chance to tie Cincinnati for first place, the Komets lost 5-3 to Toledo before 8,292 fans Friday night to fall to 10-12 at home. They are still two points behind the Cyclones and two points up on the Walleye for third place.
The players are confused because they don't understand it any more than their fans.
``If we had an answer, we'd give it to you,'' veteran defenseman Tyler Butler said. ``Teams come in here hungry to beat us. Tonight, we got down a couple but we fought back to give ourselves a chance at the end. I think we're giving the same effort as we are on the road. It's a million-dollar question that I don't have the answer to right now, unfortunately.''
Everyone in the locker room has a different answer, which is part of the problem. Everyone is searching for different explanations.
``I don't think it's so much a home and away thing, as it's our inability to get two, three, four or five games in a row,'' center J.M. Rizk said. ``We've had some really good efforts at home. We have to let the game come to us a little. We're a team with a lot of offensive power, but once the game gets boring we start to try to do too much. If could just let the game come to us and let the other team make the mistakes... It's tough to say.''
Fort Wayne hasn't put together more than two wins in a row at home all season and has only accomplished that twice. A big part of it is going 0-5 at home against Toledo and 1-3 against Cincinnati. The rough part is there are only 14 home games remaining.
Since a very early five-game winning streak overall, the Komets haven't been able to win three games in a row. It's amazing they are only two points out of first place, but that's largely because of a 12-6-2 road record.
``I think we just have to find our game at home,'' leading scorer Brandon Marino said. ``We seem to come out flat for some reason, and I don't know what it is. There's something missing right now and we have to figure out what that is.
``I don't know if there's anything you can put a finger on it at home and say this is what it is. I know some people don't think we're putting the effort in, but I think we're putting the effort in.''
A couple of factors are a lack of size and a lack of physical play. The Komets had four players in the lineup bigger than 200 pounds, and the Walleye had nine, including 6-foot-3 goaltender Kent Simpson who was a huge obstacle in the Toledo net.
But the Komets rarely got near Simpson until the final minutes when they scrambled to rally. They got to no rebounds or deflections and forced only one penalty for a power-play chance all night. The Walleye won almost every battle along the boards and in the corners.
``I have no idea what the answer is,'' veteran center Brett Smith said. ``I feel like we're focused, and we're in the game, but little plays like not getting the puck deep cost us tonight. We're a team that can't afford to make mistakes. For us to win, we don't have to be perfect, but we have to be pretty d--- close.''
It will help when Colin Chaulk and Thomas Beauregard return from injury, and the Komets might expect some more players from Norfolk of the American Hockey League. The schedule also gets a lot easier starting next Saturday.
Part of it has to be mental as the players talk about the problem and maybe even think about it too much. The vexing part is they know they can play better at home.
``We have great fans,'' Butler said. ``We're not trying to come out here and lay an egg and disappoint everybody. We're trying. It just sucks right now, but we'll find a way.''