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Tailing the Komets

Monday's story

The shortest press conference in Komets coach Greg Puhalski's 12-year coaching career lasted about two minutes Sunday night, or about 360 minutes shorter than Sunday's 4-1 loss to Kalamazoo seemed to last.

``We didn't play well at all,'' he said.

Any ideas why?

``No comment.''

How about the whole weekend?

``The past two games we generally made good decisions,'' he said before starting into Puhalski-ese. ``Tonight we got out-worked, we got out-thought, we got out-forwarded, out defensed, out-goaltended. In all areas we didn't do the things we need to do.''

Any idea why you guys are struggling?

``No comment.''

The Komets are creating lots of trouble for themselves. They are still 7-3 over their last 10 games, but the way they are playing, several little wrong things are adding up to big problems.

They have a horrible habit of playing to the level of their opponent. For the last two-thirds of the season that's been OK because they've usually found ways to win. They had to come back and beat last-place Missouri on Friday and needed a shootout to beat a Richmond team that is only average on the road on Saturday.

Then they got hit with an uppercut against a title contender on Sunday. They trailed 3-0 after the first period mostly because of some shaky goaltending. Kevin St. Pierre struggled mightily, while Kalamazoo's Joel Martin made some marvelous saves. Twice Wings scored from the goal-line by bouncing the puck off St. Pierre and into the net.

Even when St. Pierre settled down, the Komets needed to turn up the energy and intensity in the second period, but there was little spark, leading to Puhalski's description. The Wings were beating them to the pucks, out-battling them in the corners and generally looking like the more aggressive, disciplined team.

They are symptoms of a larger epidemic. Before the first period on Sunday, the Komets had out-shot their opponents in 11 consecutive periods, and they even ended up out-shooting the Wings 35-30. Over those last five games, that adds up to a total of 226 shots for the Komets against 110 for their opponents, but the total score is 17 goals against and only 11 for. Fort Wayne is 2-3 over that span.

Don't blame all that on the defensemen. Over their last 10 games heading into Sunday, Ryan Jorde was plus-12, Troy Neumeier was plus-9, Mark Lindsay was plus-5, Guy Dupuis plus-4 and Rob Guinn and A.J. Bozoian were plus-2.

That usually means a few things, like the goaltending is slumping, the forwards are sneaking out offensively and the penalty kill is in trouble. St. Pierre will bounce back, but some periods the Komets' forwards hit and try to set the tempo, and some they do figure eights.

The bigger problem right now is the penalty kill. The Komets have given up at least one power-play goal in 14 of their last 18 games, and 22 power-play goals total over that span. They are at 75 percent effectiveness on the penalty kill over their last nine games. That's awful.

The Komets caught a big break on Sunday because Quad City lost 1-0 at home to Muskegon and Motor City didn't play so Fort Wayne held onto second place in the Western Division and sixth place overall in the United Hockey League's playoff standings.

They have to shake off this early spring flu or they'll slide in the standings pretty quickly. There are 15 games remaining in the regular season, including nine on the road.

Like their coach, none of the players cared to talk much after Sunday's game. They knew this week's practices were going to seem a lot longer than they actually are because their coach has plenty to comment on.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com

Posted in: Komets


Hit Somebody!!!
Sun, 03/19/2006 - 7:03pm

Blake, anything to read into with the "No Comments" by the Chief?

Sun, 03/19/2006 - 7:29pm

I must admit I was pretty pumped up to see the Komets play this weekend after the long week layover and posts on the blog. But after this weekend has come and gone...this might go down as one of the most boring weekends in recent memory. Unbelievably boring.

Next to no hitting
Prolonged stretches of simply uninspired play
Nobody screening the netminder

Have they forgotten what they need to do to win games? What we have all beaten to death as being important factors for this team to be successful, they completely abandon. We decide to shoot 70 shots from 30 feet out. Its one thing if its with butt cheeks in the goalie mask...its something different when its a clean save opportunity.
What really bothers me is this was not 2 teams with nothing to play for. Richmond is close behind the Komets and unlike us, they had some purpose in their play and quite frankly we were lucky to get 2 points. Yeah, the Komets outshot them 100 to 20 but lets be serious....there was a ton of crappy shots taken. We didn't exactly witness a perfrmance of a lifetime Saturday. The Wings game was a measuring stick game and we come out and play like freakin' dogs. We had no business being out there tonight playing like that. We have no business begging for a K-zoo first round matchup either. How many times were their scrums around the net and we did not do a thing. Simply said "excuse me" and skated away.
A road trip is probably just what the doctor would order. We better wake up right now on this trip and realize the playoffs are not a guarantee. The injuries sure seem to be a factor in overall play and chemistry but its time to put that excuse to rest. These filler players are what management decided to go with through the stretch run. They need to execute and produce. And the leaders on this team need to start leading by example.
Normally I am not all that negative on the guys and I still hold some faith. But I'm sorry....these games flat out stunk.

Hit Somebody!!!
Sun, 03/19/2006 - 8:44pm

Scoops? You said it.

Hit Somebody!!!
Sun, 03/19/2006 - 8:54pm

What happened to the cries for tough physical play that we heard after the game in K-zoo earlier this year when we won there? We still have not seen any of that yet.

Sun, 03/19/2006 - 9:30pm

Hey, Hit, there's no way you can tell me you didn't hear Puhalski from the bench last night. He was all over the ref early and he was all over a couple of players late, too.

Personally, I loved watching Kzoo play. They played the way the Komets ought to, with passion and poise and some great passing. And they hit and never let up on the Komets.

Then he had plenty of comments for the dressing room, just not for us. Practices ought to be fascinating this week.

Hit Somebody!!!
Sun, 03/19/2006 - 9:43pm

No, I'm too far behind the goal to hear him. What I meant by the "No Comments," I was simply wondering if he was finally pushed over the edge by this teams willingness to stop fighting when down. Body language speaks loud and clear with this team. You can usually read from the players what kind of effort they will give. Needless to say, there was lots of long-faces and moping all night.

Hit Somebody!!!
Sun, 03/19/2006 - 9:57pm

Bring on the Danbury.......Cheaters? Any chance we may make the playoffs by default? Will Mr. Brosal do the right thing if the Danbury Cheaters are found by the FBI to have been paying players illegally, and suspend the team from the playoffs?

Sun, 03/19/2006 - 11:34pm

You bring up a good point Hit about Danbury. That would be the only thing Brosal could do to keep this league at least partially still legit. Oh and I think it was you Hit that asked somewhere earlier if anyone could find any good out of this weekend? I try to always find some good out of every weekend, but now I'm crushed. Only good out of Sunday is that now I'm a little more confident that K-zoo can keep Muskegon from getting another cup.

Jungle Monkey
Mon, 03/20/2006 - 5:39am

Is everyone still defending the decision not to mess with "team chemistry" at the trade deadline? I say something about St. Pierre losing some sharpness last week and get blasted, now everyone agrees. We don't have a difference maker, someone who will step up and take the momentum of a game. The way Massie would when he would go on a tear hitting everything that moved. Outside of Galbraith nobody on this team makes me move to the edge of my seat when they take the ice. I don't want to see a fight end with two guys patting each other on the rear end and saying "good job". I want our guy jawing at the other guy all the way back to the box. Let him know that he'll get the same treatment next time. Show some damn heart! Guys like Hunter, Rumble, Carpentier, Whyte, and Huckalo need to step up and bang and scrap. Every guy on the Kwing roster is physical and busts his tail, and that was the difference last night. Well, there was that small issue with goaltending.

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 7:27am

Dear Mr. Franke:

Having been witness to some great hockey over the years, when the jungle was truly the jungle with bone crushing checks, scoring power, and a intimidation factor second to none, I am writing to request that once this season is said and done that you and your organization re-evaluate the Komets of today with the Komets of the past. It is very apparent that this organization has been "left" behind in terms of skill, toughness, grit, and intimidation. Yes we may have been spoiled over the years and the expectations reach far beyond than just making the playoffs, but the support that this club gets in terms of attendance ranks among the best in minor league hockey. When you look at the likes of Muskegon, 2 time defending champs, Rockford, Kalamazoo, and Danbury these organizations have surpass us and have done it with would appear to be ease. Yes I know some would say that the UHL has changed and perhaps it has, but an organization such as the Komets should still be able to adapt to and thrive. We have lost our "MOJO" so to speak. We are not a "Feared" team, we have no intimidation factor, we have no "Big Snake's", or "Benefield's" on our rosters. I know we are not a Port Huron or even a Roanoke, but we never should be because we have what those organizations do not have and that is tradition. I am sure we will survive this year and make the playoffs and sure there is still hope for a long playoff run, but one can not truly look at this club and say that we can compete night in and night out with the best in this league. We need the likes of a Massie or even a Kotyluk on this club. Bring back a "Killer" or Beazeau to bring that entertainment value back to the Fort. The guys on this club do give effort and play hard, but the problem is we have to many of the same. I do not question your willingness to win and have given Fort Wayne a hockey club, but as a fan I want the anticipation of something could happen between a game with a Kzoo, Muskegon, or a Rockford. Right now we wish and hope something of entertaining value happens a nail bitting game, a physical game with guys mixing it up with an in your face approach, or even games like Kzoo and Muskegon have had this year when all hell breaks loose and a dislike for each other is apparent. We need the jungle, we need the "You Suck" after every goal, we need someone to come out on the first shift of the game and challenged someone to set the tone. We have lost our "MOJO" and we need to find it, ya baby!

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 10:18am

So will someone please explain to me how far back the Komet vs Jim Duhart rivalry runs back and what started the whole thing?

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 10:57am

You are preaching to the choir. Not saying I agree or disagree but most of this stuff has been said a thousand times over already. I am really starting to hate Sunday games because we have not played well in them and it also makes for a very long week of reading.
I think a long week of traveling will get them refocused on the situation we now find oursleves in.
Hopefully they find a Lance Galbraith replacement. Not only is his offensive prowness sorely missed but also his mouth, his physical presence, and a tilt or two when needed. Who is going to fill that void?
Hopefully the 10-goal Bandits will relax a bit and just play hockey again. They need to forget what line they are on and play their role. The goals will come. Hopefully St. Pierre will get some much needed rest. I have been saying all year he is being ridden like a $10.....ah, nevermind. He is just playing maybe a little too much. Need him fresh down the stretch because the opponents are not getting any easier.
You guys ever going to tire of posting the same rediculous comments about the music? Not an "Ole" fan either by any stretch but let it go already.

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 12:27pm

First, Duhart is universally hated through the league. Second, it was because of something that happened a few years back. It's complicated, and a long story.

There was a trade, the details of whcih aren't really important. The Komets had the right to pick a player from Flint's roster after they had protected 6 guys.

Flint didn't protect Duhart and the Komets chose him. The reason that Flint didn't protect Duhart was that they knew he wouldn't report to Fort Wayne -- for whatever reason. He said it was because his wife had just got a teaching job in Flint and they had just bought a house. Both sides said he had nothing against playing here.

No agreement could be reached and the Komets maintained Duhart's rights, so he couldn't play anywhere else and he wanted to play in Flint but couldn't.

Now is when it begins to get interesting. Later in the year, the Komets were looking to pick up a player from the CHL (Keli Corpse) who was unhappy playing where he was and he wanted to be closer to his home to be near a ill brother.

All CHL teams passed on him on the waiver wire, which would have cleared the way for him to come to FW. All teams except Memphis. Memphis was coached by Doug Shedden who had previously coached in Flint.

The "agreement" was that Shedden would drop his waiver claim on Corpse and allow him to come here if the Komets would forego their rights to Duhart. Allowing him to play in Flint.

That and he's somewhat of an A--anyhow.

Whew. (And this was the capsulized version)

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 1:07pm

There were also some issues at the time with his wife's pregnancy. It's interesting to note that Komets management hasn't held it against Duhart as the Frankes often talk with him after games.

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 3:54pm

Sounds like Puhalski forgot "Out-coached" and "Out-recruited."

Mon, 03/20/2006 - 6:10pm

If anyone would have asked me a month ago how far i thought the K's would go in the playoffs, i would have said to AT LEAST the semi-finals. After having seen one of the most sickening diplays of "hockey" by a Komet team in recent memory on Sunday night, my optimisim has been replaced by resigned pessimism. If this is the kind of effort we Komet fans can expect from our team against one of the league's elite teams, our playoff run, if we are lucky enough to qualify for the play-offs, will be brief. I am bitterly disappointed in the lack of intensity and desire the Komets showed against the Wings. I can only hope that the upcoming road trip will bring a sudden change in team attitude and desire to finish strong.

Tue, 03/21/2006 - 10:35am

Are you telling me 1 horrible game is gonna change everyone your mind Thomas. My god, are you serious. Its ONE game, one night, out of 76 games and nights. And if they Komets win all 4 games this coming weekend, everything will be forgotten. Really how spoiled are the Komet fans here. Holy cow..unbelievable!!!!

Tue, 03/21/2006 - 7:00pm

I'll tell ya what's got me so down about this team, Mark. It's the fact that last sunday's game could've and should've been a statement game by the Komets to the Wings that the road to the Colonial Cup runs thru Fort Wayne and that Kalamazoo shouldn't expect an easy win here. This was a statement we should have made heading into the last weeks of the season. Instead, the statement the K's made last sunday is that we can be outhustled and outworked on OUR HOME ICE agianst a quality team. That was an embarrasing loss! Why did we come out so flat and uninspired? Is this team so dependant on 1 guy (Lance) to kick-start it's game into gear? If it is, we're in deep you-know-what. EVERYBODY on this team needs to step up their game against the top teams if we have any hope of going anywhere in the playoffs. JMO, Mark.