The Fort Wayne Komets were hoping to build a hot streak to carry them into the playoffs. Instead, they are facing a tragic number for elimination.
The Komets were defeated by the bigger, faster and simply better Florida Everblades 6-3 before 9,087 Memorial Coliseum fans on Friday night. The Everblades were the more-polished team all over the ice, taking control with a pair of second-period goals. Florida looked like a playoff-ready team, and the Komets simply did not.
There are 11 games left in the regular season, including a rematch tonight with the Everblades, and the Komets can't afford any more losses. The Komets are 11th in the ECHL's Eastern Conference, nine points behind eighth-place Greenville for the final playoff spot. Fort Wayne's magic number for being eliminated from the playoffs is 13, meaning any combination of Greenville points or Komets losses equaling 13 points keeps them home starting in April.
``We worked hard, but right now it's not enough,'' Fort Wayne forward Thomas Beauregard said from a quickly emptying locker room. ``We have to win all the games now. As much as we work hard, we just have to win. We just need those wins.''
Their chances may be mathematically alive, but realistically, the Komets are on life support and will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The Komets played about as hard as they could, challenging for possession all over the ice, hitting and trying to force the tempo, but the Everblades were never rattled. Fort Wayne didn't do anything wrong, but also nothing spectacular, while Florida was always steady.
Florida played a little more aggressive, seemed a little more sure of itself and was a little hungrier with its overall play. The Komets could not maintain any sustained pressure against some of the slower Everblades defenseman, and Fort Wayne coach Al Sims shuffled his lines during the third period trying to find offense.
``I think they are big, they've got good size and they move the puck really well,'' Sims said. ``I thought the first goal of the game was really important, and they got it. They finished around the net better than we did. We struggled to score on our opportunities.''
Everblades goaltender Jesse Deckert was making his second pro start, and he's now 2-0. His teammates gave him the early lead, and the rookie didn't need to make too many jaw-dropping saves.
``We finally got to him a little bit in the third but it was too little too late,'' Sims said. ``We needed to come out of the first period better than down 1-0.''
While most Komets fans and media members were talking about the return of Brent Henley after a recent trade to the Everblades, the Florida defenseman who stole the show as Michael Ratchuk who assisted or scored on the Everblades' first three goals.
After that, the game, and maybe the Komets' season, was decided.