It was clear tonight, during the Komets’ 3-0 victory over the Wheeling Nailers, that Bob Chase’s presence still looms quite large at Memorial Coliseum.
The Komets, who wanted nothing more than to pay homage to the longtime voice of the Komets, did so with their first shutout since Dec. 31, 2017.
“It’s really special. It’s a big night for everybody,” said netminder Cole Kehler, who stopped all 20 shots he faced. “To be able to do this in front of the whole building, and in front of the (Chase) family coming into town, it’s obviously very special and it was a big team win, all around.”
The Komets improved to 38-17-4 in the annual Thanksgiving Day game, which was rebranded as the Bob Chase Memorial Game after his death, at age 90, on Thanksgiving 2016.
Chase had called 63 seasons of Komets hockey for WOWO radio.
The team wore special jerseys honoring Chase and they were raffled off to benefit WOWO’s Penny Pitch charity that raises money for Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. Chase’s family, in a Coliseum suite, was saluted by the 7,740 fans in attendance. And videos narrated by NHL broadcaster Mike Emrick, who was mentored by Chase, were played throughout the night.
“It was a feel-good win, 100 percent,” coach Ben Boudreau said. “Honestly, it’s such a feel-good win, a great win on home ice. For the Bob Chase faithful, we did it for them. I even reached out to (former Komets coach Gary Graham) and said, ‘We’re going to do this for you and Bob tonight,’ because I know how much Bob meant to Gary. It was just a collective win for the organization as a whole.”
The Komets scored on 3 of 4 power plays.
Brett McKenzie poked the puck through the legs of goalie Jordan Ruby 7:15 into the first period. Brady Shaw made it 2-0 by redirecting an Alan Lyszczarczyk cross-ice pass into the top of the net at 14:32. And Shawn St-Amant finished the scoring on a 25-foot shot 18:41 into the third period, a night after he finalized the Komets’ 5-4 overtime victory at Wheeling, West Virginia.
Ruby stopped 29 shots, as the Nailers (8-6-4) were swept in the three-game series by Fort Wayne (11-6-2).
It was an important game for the Komets’ defense, after it came into the night ranked 23rd among the ECHL’s 26 teams with 4.00 goals against per game. The onus had been on the top-ranked offense (4.33 goals per game) to get the victories.
Wheeling’s offense was no slouch; it came in ranked ninth (3.41 goals). Fort Wayne and Wheeling had totaled 39 goals in the previous four meetings this season.
“I think this was important,” Kehler said. “I think it shows that this team, not only can we score a lot but we showed that we can play that stingy style. Even though we’re young, we showed that we can do the right things and we can be successful in the defensive zone.”
There were two fights in the first period, starting with Fort Wayne’s Shawn Szydlowski taking on Aaron Titcomb, who had taken exception to a Szydlowski check of Craig Skudalski. Then, there was a wild one between Kyle Haas and Wheeling’s Brad Drobot, who didn’t like Haas’ post-melee celebration and horse-collared him as he skated toward the penalty box.
In the scoreless second period, the Komets’ Matthew Boudens fought Fort Wayne-native Blake Siebenaler, who had driven Brad Ross head-first into the boards.
(Video highlights above.)
“Playing for Bob Chase tonight, you could tell everyone was buying in,” Boudreau said. “They had a long travel day and we wanted to come out early and get to the body. Leave it to a guy who has played (seven seasons) for the Komets in Shawn Szydlowski; he got the crowd rocking and got the team on his back.
“Haas quickly followed it up with a fight. He was playing to the crowd and he drew another penalty and we (got the Shaw goal) on that power play. Those are things that might not show up on the stat sheet, but it was a collective team effort, giving ourselves a chance to win. We bought in, played the right way for 60 minutes and it was fun to see.”
The Komets play host to the Cincinnati Cyclones 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum. It will be Cody Sol's return to Fort Wayne and it'll also be Star Wars Night.