FORT WAYNE – Over the last decade or so, the Komets spent a lot of time griping about the officiating in the CHL, IHL and UHL. Even if they won five championships between 2003 and 2012, they were often frustrated with the inconsistency of referees.
And they weren’t alone.
In those leagues, there was a prevalent feeling that the referees were unpredictable, that they would call things differently in the third period than they had in the first, and that they tried to keep the number of power plays for each team relatively even so it didn’t seem they were playing favorites.
For better or for worse, the Komets don’t have that complaint now that they’re in the ECHL.
I feel like they’re calling everything, Komets center Brett Smith said. They seem to not care who’s getting the penalties. It’s different, but we can’t blame (things) on them.
The Komets are 9-8-1 in their first ECHL season – they have lost six of their last eight games – and they are the third most penalized team in the 23-team league with an average of 26 penalty minutes per game.
Last season, in the 14-team CHL, they were the fourth most penalized team, but with almost seven fewer minutes per game.
While the Komets’ number of minor penalties per game is down from 5.4 to 4.4, they have taken 126 more penalty minutes than their opponents this season.
The disparity has hurt them in the standings, especially since Fort Wayne’s penalty kill ranks 14th in the ECHL (82.3 percent), its power play ranks 17th (15.4 percent), and it has given up one more short-handed goal (five) than it has scored.
But there is relief among the Komets; they think referees are following the letter of the rule book more closely.
I think it’s best for everybody (to call it this way), Komets coach Al Sims said. You know what a penalty is. Even the players know what a penalty is. You can’t go around hacking and whacking and expect not to be in the penalty box.
But after years of, in their opinions, having officials try to keep the power plays even, the adjustment has been rough for the Komets, who play at Orlando on Friday.
The refs in the CHL last season probably tried to make it more even, whether the score was 6-4 or 8-5, Sims said. But in this league, they call penalties that are penalties. They don’t care how many times you take it, you’re not going to get away with it later in the game. If you take a penalty in the first period, you will take a penalty in the third period for doing the same thing, even if it’s a 0-0 game.
The Komets have given up 56 goals this season. Eighteen of those have come on opposing power plays. If the Komets could limit those penalties, and get their 17th-ranked offense (2.72 goals per game) going, they could return to their winning ways.
But for once, they don’t think blaming the referees is proper or accurate.
As the game is played, call it as it is, Smith said. Enough with both teams winding up with three (power plays like in the CHL).
If they have three, then call three. If we have seven, then call seven. That’s the way it should be. Enough with fair. You want to win the way you win, by working hard.