The Reading Royals are the kind of hockey team Komets coach Gary Graham wants his squad to become.
The defending ECHL champions are disciplined defensively, hard to play against and opportunistic offensively. They don't make the mistakes that beat themselves but are adept at maximizing opportunities off an opponent's miscues.
The Royals let the Komets beat themselves a little bit Friday night, winning 4-2 before 6,576 Memorial Coliseum fans. After getting a quick 2-0 lead on Fort Wayne defensive miscues, Reading held the Komets to only 27 shots on goals, or eight below their average. The Royals lead the league in limiting chances, and ended the Komets' three-game winning streak.
``We played well, but they were a little more opportunistic,'' center Scott Fleming said. ``I thought we had a lot of good scoring chances, but we couldn't find the back of the net.''
The Komets cut the margin to 2-1 on a goal by Chris Auger before the end of the first period, but the Royals scored a back-door goal by Aaron Gens in the second to make it 3-1. The Komets rallied again on a goal by Mike Vaskivuo early in the third period, but a late Reading power-play goal clinched the outcome.
``They are a very good defensive team,'' defenseman Rob Kwiet said. ``We played well and had a lot of scoring chances but they were a little more opportunistic than us. We want to come out and work for 60 full minutes, and unfortunately we didn't get a couple of bounces which would have been nice.''
The Royals kept the defensive pressure on the Komets and found their own offensive chances here and there. By playing so defensively, they made sure there was no way the Komets could rally enough to score three more goals. Whenever the Komets did have a clean look at Reading goaltender Brandon Anderson, they tended to look for the perfect chance and often made one pass too many.
``As a group when we were going into the locker room between periods, I told the guys it didn't feel to me like a 3-1 game,'' Graham said. ``We passed up some chances to get some pucks to the net in the second period and turned it over too many times.''
What's worse for the Komets, the Royals dominated what had been Fort Wayne's top offensive unit of late. Mickey Lang, Bobby Hughes, Jace Coyle and Nick Tuzzolino were on the ice for the first three Reading goals and got picked apart. The Royals kept working the puck around the Komets' defense until there was nothing goaltender Andrey Markarov could do to stop the shot.
``Overall, you are never happy with a loss, but against a good team I liked where we're at,'' Graham said. ``If we continue to play more games like that, I think we're going to continue to grow and get better as a team. We need to get challenged. We're a young team and the more challenges we get thrown at us, we're going to continue to get better and find ways.''
The Komets get another chance tonight as they host Wheeling at 7:30 p.m.