The Komets' season might have turned around because of what happened off the ice Saturday night.
After Evansville's Mario Larocque came out of the penalty box to score a breakaway goal and give the IceMen a 3-2 lead with 1:15 left in the second period, the Fort Wayne players felt only slightly less upbeat than Democrats. The Komets were looking at a 1-4-1 record, including 0-3 at home, and a chance to tie their worst start since 2003-04.
Everyone in the building was full of doubt, especially after the Komets had missed a great scoring chance at the other end seconds before Larocque's goal. Muskegon's Mark Cody simply swung without looking to clear the puck, and it slid directly to Larocque's stick halfway down the ice for an easy scoring chance.
``Our heads came down a bit again, and you could have a lack of confidence when something like that happens,'' left winger P.C. Drouin said. ``It's hard not to get down and maybe make it worse.''
It would have been very easy, maybe almost expected for the Komets to come out tentative and tight during the third period. The fans were certainly expecting another loss, especially considering the way the Komets had been out-scored 12-2 at home at the intermission.
``There's lots of goals in this room and we'll get this done,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``One goal is not going to stop us.''
And his players listened. Instead of planting their chins in their chests, the Komets kept their mood upbeat and then came back out with renwed energy to score a pair of power-play goals in the third period to win 4-3 before 9,213 Memorial Coliseum fans. When they could have been their lowest, the Komets pulled themselves up.
It wasn't like Sims was trying a new spin to turn things around. He had actually started working on his players after Friday night's 4-0 loss to Dayton, telling them to stay positive and reinforced that message during Saturday morning's pregame skate. By the second intermission, he'd already impressed his players with his confidence.
``Al just came in and said, `Look, we're all over these guys. They're dead tired. We've got 30-some shots. Keep plugging away, keep cycling, keep doing the things we're doing and we're going to win this game.' '' defenseman Brandon Warner said. ``That was our mentality. Right before we went out, we said, `No matter what it takes, we're winning this game. We've got 20 minutes until the biggest win of our season so far.' ''
And that's exactly what happened, though it wasn't as easy as it sounds thanks to some great Evansville power-play chances late in the game. Facing a 5-on-3 disadvantage, the Komets kept blocking the IceMen's passing lanes, allowing goaltender Nick Boucher to see all the shots. He made a handful of potential game-saving and potentially season-changing stops.
``We probably made it the hardest way to win possible in the end, but maybe that's what we needed, to be tested like that,'' Sims said.