Every time the Fort Wayne Komets think they are about to turn the corner, they crash and burn leaning into the curve.
One night after playing their best game of the season, the Komets played probably their worst, losing to the Elmira Jackals 5-2 to end a three-game weekend on the East Coast. The score was 5-0 before the Komets scored twice in the final minute.
The Komets haven't been able to put back-to-back wins together since Nov. 15 and 16. They stretched that win streak to three games, but have gone 2-3-1 to fall to 8-8-4 overall on the season.
Oddly, they are only seven points behind North Division-leading Evansville's 27 points.
When reached by phone and asked what he wanted to work on this week in practice, Komets coach Gary Graham said, ``Overall our ability to play a steak and eggs, a meat and potatoes-type of game. I was a little bit concerned today after we scored seven goals last night. You have to out-work Elmira and get the greasy and gritty goals. That was our undoing, our unwillingness to shoot the puck off the rush and get to the net. That's how they scored the majority of their goals.''
The deciding goal probably came late in the first period when the Jackals' Jordan Peitrus scored a short-handed goal. The Komets then gave up another last-minute goal with :52 seconds remaining as defenseman Maxim Lamarche sneaked behind the Fort Wayne defense.
``Once it was 2-0, we started pressing,'' Graham said. ``We were shooting the puck more, but we were shooting it right at him, either not even hitting the net or right into his chest. It was one of those things where we were working hard, but we weren't working smart.''
The Komets out-shot the Jackals 39-23, but Elmira goaltender Maxime Clermont made 37 saves. The only goals he gave up were to Jordon Southorn and Mickey Lang who scored his league-leading 15th in the final seconds.
Fort Wayne was held scoreless in five power-play chances and have scored only four power-play goals in their last 37 chances over 10 games.
``Tonight there was a lot of chances for us to do some good things, especially in the first period,'' Graham said. ``We didn't get anything out of it. They were out-working us. You can't let four guys out-work five. They built momentum off the short-handed goal.''
The last-place team in the ECHL's Atlantic Division, the Jackals beat the Komets twice this weekend. The odd thing is that between those two games the Komets routed defending ECHL champion Reading 7-2 on Saturday night. It's the most goals the Komets have scored all season.
Another thing Graham must figure out soon is how to get some offensive production from his third-line players. Kaleigh Schrock, Shawn Szydlowski, Phil Mangan and Tristin King have combined to score only two goals so far.
``Maybe we'll look at changing line combinations,'' Graham said. ``We have to start getting something out of it, either developing strictly a checking line or finding some way another line can chip in. That's something we want to get addressed for sure.''
The Komets are also allowing 3.55 goals against per game, which ranks as the second-worst average in the league. The goaltenders have a save percentage of .898 which ranks as the sixth-worst in the league.
There will be plenty of practice time this week as the Komets don't play until Saturday at Kalamazoo to end a four-game road stretch. The next home game is Sunday against Evansville.