Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' goalie Pat Nagle keeps an eye on the play in front of the net in the first period of Friday night's game at the Memorial Coliseum against Rapid City.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' goalie Pat Nagle keeps an eye on the play behind the net in the first period of Friday night's game at the Memorial Coliseum against Rapid City.

Friday, February 03, 2017 8:56 pm

Nagle brings level of comfort to Komets

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

I don’t mean this as a slight to the Komets’ other goaltenders, Garrett Bartus and P.J. Musico, but it just seemed tonight like everyone was a touch more comfortable with Pat Nagle back in net.

The defensemen, the forwards, the coach, certainly the fans, all seemed a little more able to relax and do their thing during the 4-3 victory over the Rapid City Rush at Memorial Coliseum.

There’s nothing wrong with admitting comfort with Nagle. With the 34-save victory tonight, he improved to 4-0-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage this season. His biggest saves came against Lindsay Sparks, just back from Tucson of the American Hockey League, and Rush leading scorer Ryan Walters, at the end of odd-man rushes.

In his three seasons with Fort Wayne, Nagle is now 55-19-10 in the regular season and 12-8 in the playoffs.

“It was fun, a lot of fun to be back out there,” Nagle said. “Obviously, there was a big crowd and the boys played well in front of me. Getting the early lead gives you a little confidence and were able to build on it from there.”

Nagle isn’t 100 percent healthy yet, even though he hadn't played since Oct. 28. The high ankle sprain is a notoriously difficult injury to shake and he may be dealing with it to some extent for many weeks or months. That’s why the Komets are keeping Bartus and Musico around, at least for now. Both, particularly Bartus, have earned a lot of respect from those around the Komets for what they did in Nagle’s absence.

But Nagle is the anchor. Though no one would say it, I think it gave the Komets a touch more freedom tonight. Is it any surprise they had a season-best 48 shots on goal? Or that the Rush really needed to press hard around the net to get some ugly goals?

“I thought we were pretty good in the offensive zone,” said Mike Embach, who scored twice for the Komets. “I don’t want to say they were lax, but we were breaking them down pretty good in their coverage.”

It’s not easy to figure out the Komets of this season. They look amazing one minute, awful the next. They had a 3-0 lead tonight and, of course, allowed the Rush to get within one goal in the final minute. But they simply have to get victories against bottom-dwelling teams like the Rush, or, Saturday’s opponent – the Indy Fuel.

Discipline continues to be a problem – penalties, adherence to the defensive systems, giving up a short-handed goal were all hindrances again tonight – but it’s a lot easier to skimp on some things if you’re solid in net. With the trio the Komets currently have, they are certainly that.

I've been saying for years, the Komets should carry three goalies, at least late in the season and in the playoffs. Nothing hurts a team more than losing a goalie to injury or call-up. The ECHL rules, though, don't make it easy for teams to do it. Having three netminders could be a very interesting dynamic down the stretch, though it should be noted that Nagle likes to play as often as possible. He's probabably already asked Graham to let him play Saturday, though I can't imagine that will happen. 

jcohn@jg.net