The Memorial Coliseum fans sat in the stands with bellies full of turkey Thursday, watching their Komets in one of the wildest games of the season.
“I hear turkey makes you tired, and you don’t want to be tired playing hockey,” Komets right wing Justin Chwedoruk said.
The Komets had plenty of energy, emerging victorious from a back-and-forth 5-4 Thanksgiving night game against the league’s worst team, the Flint Generals, who are stocked with four former NHL players.
Flint’s Pascal Rheaume, Bryan Smolinski and Tony Tuzzolino combined for only one assist. Former Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Jean-Francois Labbe was foiled on 24 of 29 shots, as the Komets’ offense was too much to handle.
“It was a shootout at the O.K. Corral,” said Komets coach Al Sims, whose 10-4-0 team has won three in a row. “They kept coming back and coming back. … We just couldn’t seem to win it the easy way. We kept having to push ourselves.”
The Komets never trailed in the game. But three times, Flint whittled away at two-goal leads.
The game was decided by a controversial play. Fort Wayne defenseman Keith Rodger rushed the puck up ice on a play that appeared to be offsides, but after no whistle came, Rodger set up Sean O’Connor for a goal from the slot and a 5-3 lead at 5:31 of the third period.
Flint left wing Nathan Ward scored the final goal at 9:11, when he beat goaltender Tim Haun with a rebound.
Haun, who stopped 23 shots and assisted on two goals, has played seven straight games since Nick Boucher suffered thumb and hand injuries. With only emergency backup goaltender Tyler Sims on the roster, Haun is slated to play tonight at first-place Muskegon, which has won eight in a row, and Saturday against visiting second-place Port Huron.
“You have to think he’s (going to hit a wall) at some point. He’s played so many in a row, and he’s got two more to go this weekend,” Sims said. “But hopefully Timmy can shake this one off and come back with a strong effort at Muskegon because we’re going to need him.”
The Komets also got goals from Brandon Warner, P.C. Drouin, Rick Varone and Chwedoruk, who has three goals and four points in four games since joining the team.
“It’s nice to get some goals,” Chwedoruk said as the Komets came in with 14 goals in their previous six games. “We’ve been struggling scoring a little bit, so it’s nice to have a game where we got five and got a bunch of guys scoring, who hadn’t really been able to. We’ve just got to continue that through the weekend, since we’ve got two really good teams coming up.”
It was the 48th consecutive year in which the Komets played at home on Thanksgiving, and they improved their record in those games to 30-14-4.
In their last 12 Thanksgiving games, the Komets are 8-4-0.
The Generals (3-12-2) have lost seven straight games.