MUSKEGON, Mich -- Well, that was a horrible game to watch, an interesting game to cover.
The Fort Wayne Komets lost 6-5 to the Muskegon Fury in front of 1,565 fans at mostly vacant L.C. Walker Arena on Wednesday. It evened their best-of-seven semifinals series at two games apiece.
Both teams were understandably frustrated with the officiating. (I want to emphasize these comments came from both locker rooms.) Both teams said they just don't know what constitutes a penalty anymore and that the International Hockey League must get its act together when it comes to putting together a good playoff hockey product.
There were 33 penalties called by referee Kevin Graber. Fort Wayne was 1 for 13 on the power play. Muskegon was 1 for 7. The fans were incensed.
Enough about that, though.
The Komets' top-rated defense turned in one of its worst efforts of the season. It hadn't allowed this many goals since 2007. They were turning the puck over and, even though he stopped only 12 of 18 shots, I don't know how much, if at all, goalie Kevin Reiter was to blame. The game-winning short-handed goal from Jeff Nelson, his third goal of the night, was a little suspect. But Mitch Woods, who was covering him, maybe should have pressured him a bit more before the shot from the right circle, but that's nitpicking one play on a night of many mistakes by almost everyone.
And the Komets must get a hold of their tempers, whether the refereeing stinks or not. Mathieu Curadeau got a spearing major and game misconduct, although he didn't think it was deserved, and that cost Fort Wayne its top two centers because Colin Chaulk was suspended from this game for leaving the bench during a Game 3 fight. With those two out, then David Hukalo took a 10-minute misconduct for complaining about a call. With Hukalo, the league's best defensive player, in the box, the Fury got the game-tying and game-winning goals.
But let's be fair, the Fury is being equally foolish in its actions.
It really all came down to the defense. Fort Wayne's wasn't as good as usual and it cost the Komets.
This is why home-ice advantage is crucial, even in a series with a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format. (By the way, have I thanked anyone lately for that jewel?) It's now best-of-three with two games at Memorial Coliseum, beginning Friday, then back here Saturday.
I have no idea which goalie the Komets will go with in Game 5. My gut tells me it'll be Reiter again, though.
The Komets' best player in this game: Brandon Warner, who filled in at forward. I also think Brent Henley has been really good. Other notables for Fort Wayne tonight include Woods, Kevin Bertram and Matt Reynolds. The Fury's best players tonight: Nelson; goalie Clayton Pool, who stopped all 27 shots after Isaac Reichmuth was pulled; Dan Riedel, who the Komets cannot solve; and David Herring.
Initially, I called Komets in five. Now I think this one is going all seven. Why do I think that? The Komets just don't look as composed as they did in the regular season and, truth be told, they haven't the entire playoffs.
-- By Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette