Maybe the question shouldn't be when the Fort Wayne Komets will turn things around at home but if.
When the Komets walk into Memorial Coliseum two hours before opening faceoff, they are chipper, focused and determined. They have plenty of energy for ping pong and soccer before warm-ups. They are ready to go.
Two hours later, they come out flatter than the ice. They sit back in their trap defense, passive, waiting to react. Instead of forcing the action, they hesitate and get pushed around, and they are usually skating backward. It seems like opponents always score first, and then the Komets scramble to try catching up.
Kalamazoo scored first Friday night and the crowd of 7,477 was already out of the game no matter how loud the music played after the whistles. The fans were dead, and so were the Komets. There was no energy in the building or on the ice.
Fort Wayne gave up four goals in the first 20 minutes and never had a chance as the Wings won 5-1. The Komets are 10-13 at home heading into tonight's game against first-place Cincinnati.
There are 27 games remaining, usually way too early to call any contest a must-win game, but tonight is one for the Komets. If they have any hope of chasing down the Cyclones, the Komets must win this game. They are already eight points behind Cincinnati and only play the Cyclones three more times.
Friday started off in a bad way for the Komets as goaltender Kenny Reiter was called up to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League early in the afternoon. Playing for the second time in nine games, Marco Cousineau gave up three goals on seven shots before he was pulled for Charlie Effinger. On his first shot against, Effinger made a spectacular paddle save, but Kalamazoo scored a minute later on the next shot.
Not all the goals were the goaltenders' fault as the defense struggled horribly. Tyler Butler and Scott Kishel suffered through their worst game of the season and were on the ice for all four first-period goals.
Kaleigh Schrock tried to get the crowd back into it by tangling with Wings' tough guy Harry Young, but Schrock was clearly out of his weight class. So were the Komets, though they won at Kalamazoo 2-1 on Wednesday night.
There was more passion displayed in the post-game team meeting than at any point during the three periods.
The passive game works well on the road where the Komets are a very strong 14-7-2. They can sit back and wait for an opponents' mistake to capitalize on, but their lack of aggressiveness and physical play is burying them at home. They look tentative, unsure of their roles, and their power play is abysmal, scoring only four times in the last 51 chances. They are reacting instead of initiating in every phase.
It's hard to remember the Komets were once 6-5 at home early in the season, but they are 4-8 since, usually losing to teams they dominate on the road.
When ``Welcome to the Jungle'' started to play with 7:00 left, instead of signaling for everyone to get fired up last night it was a signal for many it was time to head home.