FORT WAYNE – When goaltender Ben Meisner joined the Komets on Dec. 26, he looked at the rafters at Memorial Coliseum and realized he wouldn’t be able to wear his favorite number, 30, which has been retired in honor of Robbie Irons.
His second choice, No. 35, was also taken, by teammate Andrey Makarov.
I’m happy to be able to wear 37 for a special reason, Meisner said.
Meisner is wearing No. 37 in honor of former Vancouver Canucks center Rick Rypien, who played in the NHL from 2005 to 2011. Rypien struggled with clinical depression and, shortly after signing with the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, he committed suicide in August of that year. He was 27.
He suffered from depression and I’ve had friends and family go through that, as well, said Meisner, 24. So it’s a memento to carry on his legacy, since he wore No. 37. It’s a special thing I can do in his memory.
Meisner has given Komets fans some memories in his five games with the team.
One of them was bad – he gave up a goal from center ice in his debut, a 3-2 loss to Gwinnett on Dec. 29 – but he’s been solid since then. He is 2-1-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage, since being acquired from the Utah Grizzlies for forward Phil Mangan.
He’s a gamer, said Komets coach Gary Graham, whose team is on a 4-1-3 run heading into tonight’s game against Elmira at the Coliseum. This is a kid who played in a ton of games at (American International College) and played in some big games (from 2009 to 2013).
When Quinnipiac (made it to the) national championship game in 2013, he backstopped (39) shots for AIC when it upset them that season.
Meisner spent eight games last year with Utah, going 3-1-4 with a 2.63 GAA and a .900 save percentage. He played 12 games for the Grizzlies this season, going 2-8-0 with a 2.65 GAA and a .931 save percentage.
Background checks convinced Graham that Meisner would be a good fit for the Komets, who lost John Muse to the American Hockey League and honored Cody Reichard’s request to be traded.
Meisner wasn’t getting goal support out there in Utah, Graham said. They were averaging 1.8 goals per game and he was playing well. He’s an athletic, smaller goaltender (at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds). And I liked that his college coaches said that he came to the rink and worked hard every day, and he made the practices better because he competes so hard.
He makes everybody earn the goals they score in practice.
Meisner had racked up 3,684 saves in college, which is 12th all time in Division I and was ecstatic to join the Komets.
I was coming here with the opportunity to play a lot of minutes and to help lead the team in the playoffs and that’s a great challenge, said Meisner, who is from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I can’t think of a better hockey town in this league than Fort Wayne.
Makarov, a 20-year-old prospect of the Buffalo Sabres, is 11-6-2 with a 2.73 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 20 games, but he’s currently out with a head injury. Max Strang was in net for Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Kalamazoo, Mich., because Meisner was suspended a game by the ECHL for firing a puck into the stands after giving up a goal.
Playing a ton of minutes is nothing new for me, Meisner said. I prefer it, honestly, because you just get in a groove. You just show up, go through the motions, and it seems to flow a little bit better.