Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Kalamazoo's Justin Taylor tries unsuccessfully to draw a penalty on Komets goaltender Lukas Hafner during Friday night's game in Kalamazoo.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Anthony Petruzzelli battles for the puck along the boards with Kalamazoo’s Ben Betker on Friday at Wings Event Center.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Justin Kea, left, battles for the puck with Kyle Thomas of the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday night at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Saturday, October 20, 2018 1:00 am
Kalamazoo 2 Komets 1
Punchless Komets fall to Wings
Graham still confident offense will get going
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Komets vs. Kalamazoo
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Memorial Coliseum
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – So far, the Komets have scored six goals in three games. So far, not one of the new acquisitions brought in to fill the bevy of lost offensive players from last season's corps has scored a single goal.
But it's too soon for panic, the Komets said after they lost 2-1 to the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday, especially with the 1-2-0 team readying to play its home opener at 7:30 p.m. today at Memorial Coliseum against the same Wings.
“Some guys are in their own heads right now and that's normal,” coach Gary Graham said. “But we've got a lot of faith in this offensive group. There's a lot of offense in this locker room and we've just got to work a little bit harder and hang around the net more and score like (Anthony Petruzzelli). He hangs around the net and we need guys doing that.”
Petruzzelli netted the Fort Wayne goal 5:39 into the second period, battling his way to a rebound and sweeping it into the bottom of the net, during a night that Wings goaltender Jake Hildebrand was otherwise impenetrable (30 saves) or the Komets simply failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities in front of 3,631 fans at Wings Event Center.
The Wings (1-1-0) weren't spectacular offensively either, but they scored when it mattered.
After a 23-minute pre-game ceremony to retire the No. 26 for Kevin Schamehorn, who played the bulk of his career for the Wings of the International Hockey League from 1976 to 1990, Chris Collins netted a shot 15 seconds into the game. Collins sped around Alexander Kuqali and beat goaltender Lukas Hafner, who made 26 saves.
And Kyle Thomas, who starred for the Komets from 2014 to 2017, netted the winning goal on a similar play from the other side of the zone, sending a shot through Hafner's legs 14:46 into the third period.
“The game boiled down to two races that they won,” Graham said. “They've got some quick wingers and they put some pucks into space and they basically went 2 for 2 in those situations. We had our fair chances of scoring chances. It's just basically, right now, we need guys to bear down.”
Both teams were 0 for 4 on power plays, and Fort Wayne failed to get any sustained pressure on a man-advantage when Kalamazoo's Ben Wilson was penalized for slashing 17:27 into the third period.
“I think when you're having trouble scoring the nice goals, it comes down to getting guys to the net and banging one in. It doesn't always have to be a pretty one; as long as it goes on the scoreboard, that's all that matters,” Petruzzelli said.
In fairness, the Komets had made myriad personnel moves leading into the game, including trading for Justin Kea and J.C. Campagna, and they'd lost captain Jamie Schaafsma to an upper-body injury, so they're still working on building cohesiveness.
“We're seeing our team come together. We're taking steps and learning what we need to do,” Petruzzelli said. “As a team, obviously, we need to produce more offense in order to win. Scoring one goal a game isn't going to do it. But moving forward, we all know what we need to do.”
This was the first ECHL game to have use of instant replay to review goals, though it wasn't used. They are also using the functionality at Toledo; Boise, Idaho; and Worcester, Massachusetts.