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Cincinnati at Komets
Face-off: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
The worst thing about Saturday night's Komets season-opening game wasn't the 4-3 shootout loss to Toledo. It's waiting a week to try again.
"The toughest thing is we have to sit around and wait to respond because every guy in that room feels like we should have won that game,'' Komets coach Gary Graham said. "We played well in front of a big crowd. We out-hit them, out-scoring-chanced them. The stats don't lie, we outshot them, but we didn't get that second point that we were looking for.''
Like Major League Baseball in April's opening week, the Komets probably have too much downtime between games. They have to wait until Saturday to take the ice again, this time against Cincinnati. Graham will use the extra practice time to fine-tune, but everyone in the Komets' locker room wishes they could just go out and play again.
They'd be more relaxed, more confident and just all-around better, and they really weren't all that bad.
"You're never satisfied with a loss no matter how well you played or better you think you played than the other team,'' new captain Nick Tuzzolino said. "It's still an L in the column. We're a team that needs wins, especially at home.''
It was nice to see a little ire and fire in the locker room after the game as the Komets looked forward instead of immediately looking back and wondering why. The last three years they had been torched in their season opener at home (5-0 Rapid City, 4-0 Evansville and 4-1 Kalamazoo), so this was a little different.
Actually, it was a lot different.
There was plenty of energy and speed up front and size on the back end. A couple of fluke goals from defensive mistakes beat them, but maybe the most important thing is that the Komets fought back each time when those miscues deflated previous teams.
Instead of guessing what would go wrong next, this team went out and made positive things happen by constantly attacking and making plays. They reacted and kept going. Yeah, they could have gotten in front of the Toledo net a little more, but Graham has a plan for that. There could have been a little more consistent back-checking, but he has a drill for that, too.
Things will get fixed because it was easy to see the work ethic and the way the players followed Graham's plan and showed they believed in it.
"We were ready to work and we were prepared,'' center Jake Hauswirth said.
They didn't hang their heads, they didn't look disorganized or unable to keep up. The goaltending of John Muse was solid, and as Graham said, every Toledo goal was a correctable error. It didn't look like there were a few players who didn't belong on the ice. Everyone just played, and hard.
There were long stretches where the Komets dictated the pace and style, but maybe one player was a little out of position to get to a rebound or to distract the goaltender. Maybe the puck support could have been a little smoother in the defensive end. Those are things Graham marked down to work on this week.
"I liked our grit, I liked our jam,'' Graham said. "I thought guys were in there winning races. There were a lot of positives tonight, but I was disappointed. ... I thought there were a lot of positives. For battling from behind the way we had to get that point, there's a lot of character in that locker room.''
But still, everyone wanted that second point, and it showed. For the first time in a while, there's something to look forward to from opening night rather than looking backward.