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K’s rest, work to fix home-ice struggles

The Komets lead the 23-team ECHL in average attendance with 7,402 fans per game – Ontario (Calif.) is second with 7,209 – so it’s particularly frustrating for them that they’ve squandered the home-ice advantage.

At Memorial Coliseum, the Komets are 10-12-0, whereas on the road they are 12-7-2.

So frustrated by the woes at home, coach Al Sims won’t even comment on them anymore.

“It’s really frustrating,” defenseman Daniel Maggio said. “We get great crowds every night at home. I don’t know what it is, but we’ve got to get a spark going before the game, come out flying in the first (period), and that just hasn’t been happening, so it’s frustrating.”

Maggio is correct; of the 22 home games, the Komets have outscored their opponents in the first period only five times and have been outscored five times. Those are almost identical statistics to the road, where crowds are hostile and where the opposition has the advantage of making the last line change before faceoffs.

Last season, when the Komets won the CHL championship, they were 19-8-6 at the Coliseum, outscoring opponents in the first periods of 12 of those games, getting outscored in the first period nine times, and they averaged 7,770 fans per game.

In fairness, the Komets just completed a stretch of 25 games in 44 days – maybe the most grueling schedule in franchise history – and they have endured myriad injuries and call-ups. They have barely had a chance to practice since the first week in December, despite injecting a slew of newcomers including Mike Hoban, Nick Wheeler and Brayden Metz into the lineup.

They lost 3-2 at Kalamazoo on Saturday night and don’t play again until Saturday at Evansville because of the All-Star Game in Loveland, Colo., in which Maggio will be Fort Wayne’s lone representative. (There is a skills competition Tuesday, though it hasn’t been announced what, if any, events in which Maggio will take part.)

While Sims is giving his players three days off to rest this week, he also hopes to get some practice time in. Fort Wayne is only four points back of Cincinnati for first place in the North Division, though the Cyclones have played two fewer games.

“It’s the most practice we’ve had in awhile, so hopefully we can work on our special teams and work on our systems and get everybody on the same page,” Sims said, “because we do have a lot of new players and people here. Hopefully, we’ll be strong coming out Saturday.”

Just as important will be coming out strong at the Coliseum, where the Komets don’t play until Feb. 1 against Kalamazoo.

Note: Forward Garrett Klotz was returned to the Komets by Norfolk of the American Hockey League. He was scoreless in two games with the Admirals.

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