Out of the first 11 home games, the Fort Wayne Komets have managed to send everybody home happy only four times.
Friday night, the Komets continued a stretch of eight out of 10 Memorial Coliseum games by playing dead against the Reading Royals 5-1. The Royals had long memories and an even longer couple weeks of practice after getting pounded by the Komets 7-2 in Pennsylvania on Dec. 7. This time, the Royals had goaltending ace Riley Gill in the lineup, and he made a huge difference.
The Royals scored first from a crazy bounce off a Komets defenseman for a power-play goal, and then every Fort Wayne player's chin hit his chest in the second period. By the time they looked up, the score was 4-0 and the game was over.
The Komets are 10-9-4 overall, 4-4-3 at home, and the home attendance is suffering, dropping to less than 7,000 over the last eight games. That's the announced attendance and most of the time there's less than 6,000 in the building.
``I don't think it has anything to do with being home or away,'' Komets forward Kaleigh Schrock said. ``It has to do with having the same mental mindset for every game, if we're up two goals or down three. Everyone is hunky dory and things are going well but as soon as we are down 1-0... they got a fluke goal and it's like a morgue in there.''
Even though they knew Santa was watching, the Komets couldn't do anything right, especially during an abomination of a second period when the Royals scored three goals in six minutes. The home team was simply awful and the home crowd of 6,271 let them know it.
The fans' team continues getting pushed around on their own ice and gives them nothing to cheer for. They didn't win any battles or races against the Royals, and continually made lazy, soft passes in their own zone which cost them when picked off. They weren't playing from their heals as much as they were their backsides where they were continually getting knocked onto.
``They buried their chances and we didn't, but at the same time it starts with our character,'' Schrock said. ``We're lacking character right now. Winning is a habit and you don't change with the way you act or the way you play at all. It doesn't matter if it's 3-1 or 2-0, if guys have points or don't have points. It's unacceptable.''
Goaltender Cody Reichard continues to struggle with inconsistency, rarely stopping the puck cleanly and often giving up fat rebounds. Last Sunday he was great against Evansville, making 40 saves in a win, but he couldn't rescue his teammates from mistakes against and an opportunistic Reading team.
``I think we have to learn from our mistakes and be on more of an even-keel, keep our highs at an even pace and our lows at an even pace,'' defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said. ``We have to learn to have a little bit more character. We have to stay positive.''
After winning two in a row, the Komets came out with new two new forward lines and a couple new defensive pairings, and they didn't work. Nothing worked as the players tried to make lots of individual plays on offense and stopped moving their legs on defense.
``For the most part there in the second period, the reason I didn't call a time out is I want to see these guys work through some adversity,'' Komets coach Gary Graham said. ``It's something we need to learn to start getting through those times. As a coach you hope it doesn't happen a lot, but you hope we're going to continue to learn and grow through these times. We need guys stepping up and doing it on the ice with their actions.''
The Komets get a second chance at the Royals at 7:30 p.m. before taking three days off for the Christmas break.