Komets coach Al Sims sent a strong message when he benched two-time Turner Cup-winning goaltender Nick Boucher after the first period Friday night.
Did you see the second goal? Was that a good goal? Sims asked.
Of course, the answer was, No.
Port Huron’s Tab Lardner shot the puck from the left dasher boards and it squeaked between Boucher and the left post for a two-goal lead in what would become a 4-1 victory by the Icehawks.
Let’s face it, Sims said, some of the goals that are going (into the net) in our building are not great goals. One or two of those a game, and if you’re not scoring, you’re going to have problems overcoming it. We need top-quality goaltending.
The Komets haven’t been scoring in their last two games either – they lost 4-3 in an overtime shootout to Bloomington on Wednesday – and it’s left them four points back of second-place Port Huron.
On Friday, Port Huron goaltender Adam Russo foiled point-blank shots from Leo Thomas, Sean O’Connor, Konstantin Shafranov and Justin Chwedoruk (twice).
Russo stopped 34 shots, getting beaten only by Chwedoruk, who redirected a Frankie DeAngelis shot just as a Fort Wayne power play was expiring. That cut the Port Huron lead to 2-1 at 16:45 of the second period, but the Icehawks answered in the third.
Forward Brandon Kaleniecki came out from behind the net and beat goalie Tim Haun with a backhand shot, and Lardner stole the puck from defenseman Danko Mironovic before making it 4-1 at 5:52.
Haun and Boucher each stopped 10 of 12 shots.
We’ve got to come out better. First periods have been a problem for us lately and a lot of games are decided in the first period. If you look at the winning percentage of teams that score the first goal, it’s pretty drastic, said Chwedoruk, whose Komets are 21-3-2 when scoring first, 8-13-1 when allowing the first goal.
Sims was also angry with right wing Brad MacMillan. MacMillan dropped the gloves and began pummeling Jason Kostadine in the third period. But Kostadine didn’t fight back and MacMillan received 17 penalty minutes, while the Icehawks got a seven-minute power play.
That obviously took us out of the game, and it’s a discipline issue, Sims said.
MacMillan got sucked in by Kostadine, who knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn’t going to drop his gloves. We’ve got to be smarter than that.