Last season, the Komets were the ECHL’s best team at home, with a 28-7-1 record. Not a whole lot has changed.
“We work hard throughout the week. Especially in front of our fans, we want to win here. We’ve been working hard, keeping it simple, and it’s fun to be winning like this,” defenseman Ryan Culkin said after the Komets beat the Orlando Solar Bears 5-2 at Memorial Coliseum, where Fort Wayne has an 8-3-2 record this season.
The Komets have won eight of their last nine games, which includes a 5-1-0 record at the Coliseum.
On Sunday, the victim was Orlando goaltender Mackenzie Skapski, who has two games of NHL experience with the New York Rangers on his résumé but looked out of sync much of the contest that was almost as odd as the night before.
For Fort Wayne, it was a rare start for Fort Wayne goaltender Garrett Bartus, who had to watch from the bench as Michael Houser had started 11 of the previous 12 games and won seven of those starts.
Bartus stopped 35 shots, as Fort Wayne outshot the Solar Bears 41-37.
“I’ve been battling in practice, working on stuff,” Bartus said. “You stay ready and then, when you get your chance you take advantage of it.”
Shawn Szydlowski’s point-scoring streak came to an end at eight games, during which he totaled five goals and 13 points.
Defenseman Jason Binkley gave the Komets a 1-0 lead 9:50 into the first period by firing a shot from the point that ricocheted off the boards behind the net, caromed off the right skate of Skapski and trickled into the net.
Another defenseman, Curtis Leonard, scored from long range for a 2-0 lead; his shot from 50 feet squirted between Skapski’s legs at 12:16.
The Solar Bears should have felt fortunate they were down only two at the first intermission, considering Louick Marcotte hit the post while firing at a wide-open net at 15:10 and seconds later, Garrett Thompson tried to lift the puck over a sprawled Skapski and couldn’t quite get enough air.
Artur Tyanulin, who has seven goals in 13 games, made it 3-0 just 18 seconds into the second period with a shot into an open net, after Skapski failed to sweep the puck away as it was coming off the opposite post.
Captain Jamie Schaafsma’s shot from the right circle, on Fort Wayne’s 24th shot, made it 4-0.
Schaafsma had been at the center of the Komets’ wild 5-3 victory at the Coliseum over Quad City on Saturday, when he accidentally scored into his own net during a delayed penalty – credit for the goal was given to Mallards goalie C.J. Motte – though Schaafsma finished that game with an empty-net insurance goal for the Komets.
Another weird play helped the Solar Bears get back into it today. After Fort Wayne’s Mason Baptista appeared to make it 5-0 with a shot from the right circle, a long discussion between the officials and the goal judge resulted in a 4-1 lead because it turned out a linesman had determined Joshua Winquist had put the puck over the goal line and out the side of the lifted net at 2:54, before the Baptista goal which then was deemed to have never occurred.
“A couple bizzaro things this weekend,” Graham said.
Still reeling from that awkward event, Cody Sol took a cross-checking penalty and Gabriel Desjardins a boarding penalty, and that set up Orlando’s Nolan Valleau for a 5-on-3 power-play goal to cut Fort Wayne’s lead to 4-2.
“We let our emotions get out of hand and that sometimes hurts us,” Graham said. “We have been pretty good in that department, so it’s a disappointment. But that’s not to take anything away from the guys. They scored on their 5-on-3, even though we had some good (shot) blocks. Ultimately, if you give a team with that much skill some time, then they’re going to find a way to score. Probably not the perfect way we’d like to close out the third period, but we played a pretty solid game I thought.”
Culkin indeed got the Komets their fifth goal, though, with a shot from the top of the left circle at 7:22.
Notes: Fort Wayne’s Logan Nelson has one goal in five games since being acquired in a trade from Orlando for cash. … The Komets’ Taylor Crunk got a double-minor for roughing for punching Darryl Bootland in the back of the head and then again when he was on the ice. … Assistant Olivier Legault, who is normally in the press box, has spent the last two games on the bench with coach Gary Graham and top assistant Ben Boudreau. … The Komets played without Justin Hodgman (shoulder), Marco Roy (with San Jose of American Hockey League), Dennis Kravchenko (back), Zac Larraza, Ryan Lowney and Phil Bushbacher. … The referee was Stan Szczurek.