Notwithstanding Friday's fight between Taylor Crunk and Garrett Clarke, the rivalry between the Komets and Indy Fuel doesn’t have much pizzazz.
The fans may want more hatred but the Komets certainly aren’t complaining, not after a 5-2 victory improved their record against the Fuel this season to 2-0-0 and continued what has been a dominating stretch for Fort Wayne in the series.
The Komets have won 9 of 10 meetings over two seasons, and 25 of 33 over five seasons. What they’ve done at Memorial Coliseum, where there was a crowd of 7,183 fans on hand, has been particularly impressive – they have won 14 of the last 17 games against the Fuel at home.
Gabriel Desjardins scored twice. Michael Houser stopped 31 shots for Fort Wayne, which faces the Fuel again Saturday at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
The Komets (14-7-2) have been hot in general. Despite losing 6-3 at Cincinnati on Wednesday, when Houser was pulled from the game, they have won nine of their last 11. Indy (8-12-3), meanwhile, has won only three of its last six after squandering a lead in this game.
“We didn’t start the way we wanted, for sure, but in the second and third we took back some momentum and it paid off,” Desjardins said.
(Video highlights are above.)
The Fuel outshot the Komets 14-10 in a scoreless first period that saw Fort Wayne’s Logan Nelson get a breakaway, beat goaltender Matt Tomkins but send the puck over the net at 10:56. Indy’s best chance came during a power play at 18:45 when Michael Neal got to the rebound of a Nolan Descoteaux blue-line shot but was thwarted by Houser.
Neal atoned by scoring his team-leading ninth goal from the left circle for a 1-0 lead 1:21 into the second period. But it took Desjardins only 21 seconds to answer, also with a shot from the left circle.
Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma made it 2-1 – it was Fort Wayne’s second goal in the span of three shots – by redirecting a Shawn Szydlowski shot so that it went between Tomkins’ legs at 2:31.
Szydlowski has tallied at least one point in 10 of the last 11 games, totaling seven goals and 17 points along the way. Also assisting on the Schaafsma goal was Garrett Thompson, who has a point in six of the last seven games, totaling six goals and 12 points in that span.
The third goal of the night from the left circle was scored at 14:21 by Indy’s Nick Bligh, who skated unfettered into the offensive zone and snapped a shot between Houser’s legs.
Looking to spark his teammates, Crunk doled out a blistering check to Bligh at 16:39, then fought Clarke in front of the Indy bench.
“There wasn’t a lot of emotion in the building. The crowd was extremely quiet. There wasn’t a lot of music,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “Me and the other coaches were talking on the bench that there just wasn’t an emotion or energy in the building for either team. In the second period, Crunker’s fight got the energy going.”
The Fuel killed off a 34-second 5-on-3 power play late in the second period after Jack Burton was penalized for hooking and Zach Miskovic for delay of game for shooting the puck into the stands. A fortuitous ricochet of the puck gave Desjardins his second goal and the Komets a 3-2 lead in the third period. Nelson’s shot from the right circle caromed off Indy’s Troy Vance and then Desjardins, before slipping inside the right post at 13:37.
Szydlowski and Schaafsma cemented the victory with empty-net goals. Tomkins stopped 33 of 36 shots.
“There wasn’t a lot of emotion in the game. There weren’t a lot of checks. There weren’t a lot of scrums. It was very quiet in the building,” Graham said. “Everything in the first period seemed a little off and we talked about it after the first period – ‘we have to find a way to get momentum going in this building.’”
Both teams finished scoreless on two power plays.
“We’ve got a good group of guys. Everyone is completing each other. You can see it on the ice that everyone is playing hard together and showing up,” Desjardins said.
Notes: The Komets and Big City Cars presented a check for $12,375 to Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana, a non-profit organization that honors veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., memorials. The money came via the recent jersey auction on Military Appreciation Weekend. … The Komets played without Justin Hodgman (shoulder), Dennis Kravchenko (back), Louick Marcotte and Phil Bushbacher. … Since being acquired from Wichita for Ralph Cuddemi, Marcotte has two goals, six points and an even-rating in nine games. Cuddemi has four goals, five points and a plus-4 rating in 10 games for the Thunder.