The Fort Wayne Komets desperately need a slump buster.
Stuck in their worst rut since 1999, going 3-9 so far in February and scoring only 11 goals in those losses, the Komets need to find something, anything to break their scoring jinx.
On Sunday, they tried 44 shots on Wheeling goaltender Peter Delmas. The Komets dominated play and chances, firing from far and close, high and low and even a few times changing speeds on shots. The Komets played more physical than they have in 90 percent of the games this season, they crashed the net for rebounds and took the punishment in front trying to screen Delmas and deflect shots. They got closer to Delmas than his significant other.
They did everything right but one thing: score. Delmas snatched every shot out of the air.
``I don't know what else we could have done,'' Komets center Brett Smith said. ``We just ran into a hot goalie and he made save after save after save. We just have to learn to score. When you have to play a tight game like that, one shot beats you.''
That one shot came with 3:33 left. With Tyler Butler sitting out a high sticking minor, Komets Kaleigh Schrock and Jamie Milam were unable to clear the puck against a Wheeling power play. The puck squirted to Keven Veilleux to start a 2-on-1 against Komets goaltender Jeff Deslauriers. Veilleux set up Paul Crowder who bounced a shot off the goalpost to win the game.
Deslauriers gave up four goals all weekend and still lost two out of three games. He might earn the ECHL's Goaltender of the Week honor despite having a losing record.
Delmas was unbelievable, but then again, who isn't against the Komets of late? Every goalie looks fantastic against Fort Wayne, especially in Fort Wayne where the Komets are now 11-16 with nine home games remaining. Wheeling was 5-16-5 on the road before this game.
``It's a a microcosm of the whole season,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``We haven't been able to score much all year. Tonight, Delmas, whether we made him look good or he played unbelievable, it doesn't matter. The fact is, we couldn't get a goal in 44 shots.''
The Komets out-shot the Nailers 23-2 (actually four) in the first period, but the score was still 0-0.
So the Komets need to try something, anything to get a few goals going. Here are some possibilities:
* They could throw all their sticks in the trash so they could get a few garbage goals, of course.
* Maybe they need to cut the tape on their sticks to let a few goals out.
* One former Komet knew of a player who had to pat everybody in the locker room on the bare backside with his stick. How would you explain the splinters?
* Maybe they could dunk their sticks in the toilet. Bet they could wipe up with that one.
* Maybe they should shave all their facial hair, body hair or maybe even dye their hair. Sorry, honey, I've got to do this for the team!
* Sometimes players will wear their long underwear inside out or even backward. Even worse is not letting it be washed until the player scores. Ew!
* Then there are truly desperate measures such as asking for a blessing from a church leader. You probably think that would be the first time a pastor or a priest has been asked to bless a hockey stick, but they are fans, too.
* Maybe the players should sleep with a stick and a puck, or maybe even with their equipment on. Yes, the situation is drastic enough.
* Maybe Sims should consider a trick from Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari who had his team play dodgeball and then whiffle ball this week.
Yeah, don't see that one happening, either.
Somehow, the Komets have got to change their mindset. They are so snakebit, it's as if the guy who scores the game-winning goal thinks he has to pay everyone else.
There are 15 games left in the regular season, and the Komets are nine points behind eighth-place Elmira. The Jackals have also played two fewer games than the Komets, who have two games at Elmira remaining. Maybe they better look back a little, too, as Wheeling is one point behind the Komets and has played three fewer games.
The tough part is the Komets probably need to win at least 11 or 12 of their remaining games. They'll need the other teams to continue beating up each other like they have all season. Nobody else has been able to put together a four- or five-game winning streak, either, so there is a chance to make up ground in a hurry if they can only get hot.
``We have a great opportunity if we can sneak into the playoffs and put together some good games and some points, we're going to be battle-tested because of the season and the position we're in,'' Schrock said. ``Rather than looking at it as going uphill, it's still a good opportunity for us. If we do make the playoffs, we'll know we played great hockey to get in.''
It's either start laughing or start crying, and the slump has taken away the Komets' other options.