TOLEDO, Ohio -- After every game of late, the shattered Fort Wayne Komets' locker room is quiet enough that a sleeping baby would never wake up.
The Komets are wondering when they will.
Despite playing their best game in three weeks, the Komets lost to the Toledo Walleye 6-3 on Sunday at the Huntington Center. It's the Komets' fifth loss in a row, something they've done only three times since 1997. They are four points out of a playoff spot with 18 games remaining.
``I thought we deserved to win that game, I really did,'' Komets captain Colin Chaulk said. ``Yeah, we made some mistakes and the way it's going right now, most of the mistakes we make the opposition seems to finish. I thought our team played a good game tonight.''
The Komets were out-shooting Toledo 31-21 early in the third period of a 2-2 game. Then Chaulk and leading scorer Brandon Marino misfired on a pass, and Toledo's Nino Mustelli buried it from the low slot. With the Komets trying to cheat up ice to create offense, Toledo scored on two of its next three shots to take control.
It'll look like a defensive breakdown, but the lack of offense is what killed the Komets because the game should have been decided by then. After missing chances like a 2-on-0 breakaway, a rebound chance into a wide-open net and a wraparound into an open side, they could have led 5-2 going into the third period, but this is what's been happening of late as the Komets have scored 25 goals in their last 10 games, including 13 in two of those games.
``If we can't score goals, you can't win in this league,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``I said it last night, and I'm saying it again tonight. A 2-on-0 breakaway, are you kidding me, and we don't even get a shot on net? It's beyond anything I've seen. They get two chances in the third and it's in the net, bang, bang. All the hard work is not rewarded.''
Sunday's game especially stung after losing back-to-back games to Evansville, the team with the worst record in the ECHL's Eastern Conference.
``I've got no answers for you, guys,'' an obviously depressed Sims said.
After allowing a sloppy first goal of the game, Fort Wayne controlled play for the rest of the first two periods with its trap and by keeping the puck in the Walleye defensive zone. The Komets did everything right but score, and the longer they let the Walleye hang around, the more likely it seemed Fort Wayne would lose.
The Komets didn't help themselves or get any help from referee Don Jablonski who called only one penalty against the Walleye. Brandon Marino scored on the delayed penalty with three minutes left, but Jablonski ignored several calls on both teams. Two times non-calls led to Toledo goals as the baffled Komets waited for a whistle that never came.
``We just have to work harder,'' forward Matt Syroczynski said. ``It's the only thing I know that works. We're getting chances, but we have to bury them. We have to be tougher on our sticks in front of the net and be tougher in front of our own net and help Charlie out. The only way to get out of a slump is to keep working.''
Other than a massive trade, there's nothing else to try at this point. Somehow, some way they better wake up.