Whenever Al Sims has been the coach, the Fort Wayne Komets have been known for their defense and special teams. Both areas will get a lot of work in practice this week as the Komets approach their home-opener at 8 p.m., Friday, against Bloomington.
The Komets are 1-1 after the International Hockey League's first weekend, winning 4-3 at Dayton in overtime on Friday and losing 5-4 at Port Huron on Saturday. The Komets have allowed five power-play goals in 16 chances against while scoring only two on their own 12 chances.
“We have to kill penalties better,” Sims said after Saturday's game. “We can't allow two power-play goals every game or we're not going to win.”
The Komets also have to find a way to get off to better starts. They have been out-scored 3-0 and have managed only 15 shots on goal in two first periods so far.
“We need to work on just about everything, penalty kill, power play, everything,” Sims said. “We have to get better in our systems as well. It's still early, but we need to improve in all areas right now.”
Despite scoring three goals in the third period and taking the lead at one point, the Komets could not stop Port Huron's offense. The Komets had a chance to the game on the power play in the final two minutes but could not beat Port Huron goaltender Larry Sterling.
"It was an exciting game," Sims said. "It was a sea-saw battle. They went ahead for good at the end, but we had lots of chances to tie the score and get it done."
The Komets fell behind 2-0 halfway through the second period on Daniel Tetrault's power-play goal, but Matt Syrocznski got the Komets on the scoreboard with his second goal of the young season, and Keith Rodger tied it early in the third period on a power-play goal. Konstantin Shafranov gave the Komets their first lead at 4:13 of the third period.
Then Port Huron's Tab Lardner and Mike Kinnie scored goals 12 seconds apart to give the IceHawks back the lead. Kinnie pushed the margin to 5-3 with another goal for a hat trick before Brad MacMillan scored his first of the season for the Komets with 5:50 remaining.
Fort Wayne's last chance came when Lardner was called for elbowing with 1:35 left, but the Komets could not score.
The Komets gave up three power-play goals in eight Port Huron chances, while scoring only once on their own four chances. Nick Boucher made 28 saves for the Komets, and Sterling made 22 for the IceHawks who were playing their season- and home-opener.
The Komets played without veteran defenseman Kevin Bertram who injured a hamstring Friday night in Dayton, but rookie center Travis Whitehead played his first game after attending his grandfather's funeral.