The Komets’ power play hadn’t been particularly effective – they had scored on one of their previous 12 opportunities – yet it was inadvisable to give Fort Wayne the two-time defending IHL champions a man-advantage in overtime Saturday night.
That’s exactly what the Dayton Gems did, though, when forward Matt Auffrey whacked his stick tomahawk style onto the pads of Fort Wayne goaltender Tim Haun, who spilled to the ice like a tower of Jenga pieces.
It took but one faceoff and a P.C. Drouin shot from 40 feet out 39 seconds into the extra period for the Komets to get a goal and a 2-1 win at Memorial Coliseum.
We’re obviously struggling to score on the power play right now. Everybody knows that. Until that goal, anyway, Komets defenseman Brandon Warner said. It was finally time to get one there. But it’s good to get these close games early. We’re in that playoff mode already. It gives us these types of experiences early, so we’ll be ready come playoff time.
The Komets’ power-play unit ranks third in the IHL at 21.6 percent. The hard-shooting Drouin, who plays the point, has only two power-play goals, three overall.
It was a weird game. We had a hard time getting going. We caught a break in the overtime. We finally got a good power play, Drouin said. It just seems like all the lines aren’t clicking right now. I know it’s the start of the year and that’s probably got a lot to do with it. I have no doubt that we’re going to get a lot more scoring chances and play a lot better than what we’re doing right now.
Still, the Komets (7-2-0) have won four straight games. They have defeated the Gems (5-5-3) in both meetings between the teams, with both wins coming in overtime.
The Komets opened the scoring at 6:06 of the first period, when defenseman Matt Woodard’s shot from 45 feet out sailed through a crowd and beat goaltender Ryan Mior, who stopped 28 shots.
But the Komets failed to capitalize on some other early opportunities. Center Colin Chaulk was foiled by Mior on a breakaway, and center Leo Thomas whiffed from close range as he tried to one-time a crossing pass during a 2-on-1 rush.
The Gems, an expansion team, got things going in the third period when defenseman Bryan Nathe beat goaltender Tim Haun, thanks to a good screen by Dayton forward Sam Bloom at 4:01. Haun had 26 saves.
There was a scary moment for the 9,671 Fort Wayne fans less than two minutes later, when Fort Wayne’s Konstantin Shafranov passed the puck up-ice, then was elbowed in the head by Dayton defenseman Greg Labenski, who didn’t receive a penalty. Shafranov didn’t return and is unlikely to play today at Muskegon, Mich., in the first match between the Komets and Lumberjacks since their fight-filled game at the Coliseum on Oct. 31, a 3-1 Fort Wayne victory.
Both teams could be looking for payback today. The Komets are irked at Jason Lawmaster for jumping Shafranov, while the Lumberjacks believe the Komets went too far in taking on Robin Bouchard, the IHL’s leading scorer. After that game, Fort Wayne’s Brad MacMillan received a 15-game suspension and Muskegon’s Robin Big Snake, both for leaving the penalty box to fight and being overly physical with officials.
Neither will be on the ice today.
Note: Fort Wayne played without defenseman Danko Mironovic, who has the flu and is expected to sit out today’s game, too.