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Epic goaltending steals the show

The Komets lost 2-1 to the Reading Royals in an overtime shootout. We've got the goals and, if you like great goaltending, this is worth your time.

Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Reading's Ethan Cox and the Komets' Chris Auger tangle during the first period Saturday at the Coliseum. Vaskivuo later scored in the shootout but the Komets lost.
Reading 2, Komets 1, SO

Goalies steal the show as Komets fall to Royals

Komets forward Phil Mangan, left, misses a chance at a wide-open net as the puck slides away from him with Reading’s goalie Riley Gill out of position.

– The Komets have the ECHL's leading goal scorer, Mickey Lang, and two others, Brandon Marino and Scott Fleming, in the top 20 in scoring.

But they feel they're relying too much on their goaltending, and Saturday night was a perfect example.

Andrey Makarov was spectacular in net – he stopped 43 shots – but the Komets lost 2-1 in an overtime shootout to the defending champion Reading Royals at Memorial Coliseum.

"We got the point (in the standings), but we probably needed two tonight. We're relying too much on our goaltending. Marky made some big saves tonight and kept us in the game, but their goalie made some big saves, too," said Lang, who had Fort Wayne's regulation-time goal by skating from his own zone with the puck and putting a slap shot from the right circle into the bottom of the net 10:07 into the second period.

"We've got to take advantage of our 3-on-2 (rushes) and our 2-on-1s, and our power play is killing us right now. We're working on it, but we can't seem to find an answer right now."

Reading (12-9-1) tied it 1:44 into the third period, when Fort Wayne (10-9-5) was on a power play; Brandon Blandina stole the puck at the Reading blue line and beat Makarov on a breakaway.

"I thought both goalies really stole the show at both ends," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "(Riley) Gill and Makarov, that was a really good goaltending battle … and it's just disappointing how Reading got their first goal. We put a lot of work into the power play this week. To get outworked on a power play is disappointing and it was such a tight game."

In the seven-round shootout, in front of 6,496 fans, Reading got goals from Yannick Tifu, Ryan Cruthers and Michal Cajkovsky. Fort Wayne's shootout goals came from Mike Vaskivuo and Mike Embach.

"To come out with one point on the weekend is disappointing, I'm not going to lie," Graham said.

"We've got higher expectations of ourselves."

Neither team could capitalize on myriad great chances in the first period. Reading's Domenic Monardo was foiled by Makarov on a 2-on-1 rush at 2:26 of the first period. Marino was alone in front and had a backhand shot gloved by Gill at 4:05. And at 10:55, a crossing pass came right to Lang, who whiffed on a chance to score into an open net, but he redeemed himself later with his 17th goal of the season.

Those missed chances remained a theme of the night, and after Marino was stoned from point-blank range in the final three minutes of regulation, it was clear it would be decided in a shootout.

"They made some adjustments tonight. They sat back a little bit more in the neutral zone and tried to keep us off the rush more. We had to make sure we had guys willing to chip and chase and go get pucks," Graham said. "Once we started doing that, we started getting some good scoring chances. But tonight was a time of goaltending."

Notes: Before the game, the Komets brought in Todd Mancuso to be their emergency goaltender, because Cody Reichard was called up to Iowa of the American Hockey League after the 5-1 loss to Reading on Friday at the Coliseum. Mancuso plays for IPFW's club team. … A power outage early Saturday affected a compressor and the ice conditions at the Coliseum, but things were repaired well in advance of the game. … The Komets scratched defenseman Nathan Martine and replaced him with Nik Pokulok. … Fort Wayne has lost all four games that have gone to shootouts, while Reading is 4-0. Fort Wayne dropped to 4-4-4 at the Coliseum, while Reading is 7-2-1 on the road. … The Komets have been outscored 13-12 in the last five games, going 2-2-1 along the way.


This story has been changed to correctly identify those in photographs. An earlier version of this story online and in the print edition incorrectly identified two players.