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Graham blows up at Komets after another late loss

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Fort Wayne blew a 3-0 lead to fall 5-4 to Wheeling in overtime

Monday, November 25, 2013 - 10:28 pm

Gary Graham prefers to coach through positive reinforcement, but there was nothing positive to reinforce Saturday night. The Komets blew a 3-0 lead and lost to the Wheeling Nailers 5-4 in overtime to fall to 2-2-3 at home this season.

Asked what he said to the team in the locker room after the game, Graham ranted.

``Oh, it's time to call out some names. (Mickey) Lang and (Mike) Vaskivuo were awful, just plain awful. Turn the puck over everywhere, will not buy in, will not work on the defensive side of the puck. (Nick) Tuzzolino and (Jace) Coyle were awful, absolutely awful. The mental weakness on our bench is palpable. It's a major problem. It's a big problem and it's not going to get tolerated.

``These guys have a chance to go to Evansville and show something, and I hope they do, but the leash is extremely short right now.''

The Komets started the weekend on a three-game losing streak, but lost 4-2 to Reading on Friday and played very tentatively after getting the 3-0 lead early in the second period on Saturday.

Alternate captain Brandon Marino was minus-5, Coyle was minus-4 and Scott Fleming was also minus-3 on the night. Tuzzolino was minus-3 on the night and is now a league-worst minus-17 on the season.

``It's awful,'' Graham said. ``He's the worst defenseman. He's playing like a seventh defenseman right now. Can't defend. Worst part, fingerpointing, nobody wants to take a look in the mirror. I feel bad for (Cody) Reichard and the 12 to 14 guys who actually checked in to play tonight. I feel bad for our fans who had to witness that.''

Making his first start of the season at home, goaltender Reichard made 29 saves but he didn't get much help.

``I'm at a point now after watching this enough to where it's time to... We talked about urgency and we got to 3-0, and once again it's Groundhog Day all over again,'' Graham said. ``I might as well be Bill Murray coaching on the bench.

``We'll give them a chance to see what they can do tomorrow. That team shows up that was mentally weak on our bench in the third period, we don't stand a chance tomorrow. No way, it ain't going to happen.''

Can he get more players?

``I have irons in the fire everywhere, oh, yeah, that's for sure,'' Graham said.

How much of this does he have to take on his own shoulders?

``I can only do so much with Xs and Os,'' he said. ``I can only do so much with game-planning and preparation. The horses have to be your horses. We have too many of our top players playing terrible hockey right now. Terrible hockey.'

It's also safe to say this is not the first time Graham has talked to his players about their performance late in games.

``It's boiled over tonight,'' Graham said. ``I knew once that game was going into the third period... I've never seen a team like this that constantly, constantly shoots itself in the foot, and does not learn from their mistakes. The only way that I can do anything is icetime or just move on with somebody. I'm at that point now as a coach. They have 13 games now. There's been enough time and enough of a body of work. This team can play with anybody on any given night, we've all seen that, but they can't get the job done when it counts the most. Too many offensive-minded guys being too offensive. Defensive guys who can't defend.''