Spencer Smallman had a goal and two assists for the second consecutive night as the Komets defeated Wheeling 5-3 Saturday in front of a capacity crowd of 3,040 at Memorial Coliseum.
By the time Smallman stole the puck at the red line, streaked into the offensive zone and set up Morgan Adams-Moisan for a goal 10:06 into the third period, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Fort Wayne (7-1-3) is on a 7-0-1 run and improved to 5-0-2 against the Nailers (7-17-4). Wheeling, in the ECHL cellar, has lost 9 of 11 games.
Tensions were still high from the physical game Friday – won 4-2 by the Komets – and things intensified before this game even began. At the end of warm-ups, Fort Wayne’s Travis Howe exchanged words with Wheeling’s Tyler Drevitch, who caused a ruckus earlier this season for refusing to leave the ice after warmups and holding up resurfacing of the Coliseum ice a couple times. Saturday, Howe followed Drevitch into the Nailers’ locker room and his teammates had to come across the ice the to fetch him. Howe will surely face punishment Monday; the ECHL’s senior vice-president of hockey operations and disciplinarian, Joe Ernst, was in attendance.
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Fort Wayne’s Brandon Hawkins had a wild sequence to open the scoring. He kicked the puck to keep it in the offensive zone, whiffed on a shot from the right circle, then scored at 7:10 after Anthony Petruzzelli fed him a pass through the slot.
Shawn Szydlowski made it 2-0 at 18:12, capitalizing on Smallman’s pass from behind the net.
Wheeling’s Patrick McNally scored 1:32 into the second period with a shot from the left boards that caught goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon off guard.
Wheeling missed a good opportunity to tie it when Howe was sent to the penalty box at 3:01 with a double-minor for cross-checking Kyle Marino and roughing Drevitch, who he upended and then repeatedly sent back down to the ice. An even better opportunity came for the Nailers late in the period with a 1:19-long 5-on-3 power play, but the Komets had more shot blocks (three) than shots allowed (two).
Patience paid off for Wheeling, though, which evened at 2 when Cody Sylvester redirected a McNally shot 16 seconds into the third period.
It didn’t last long; Smallman regained the lead for Fort Wayne at 4:49, just after a faceoff, snapping the puck from 20 feet out past goalie Alex D’Orio. Jason Cotton made it 4-2 by redirecting a Randy Gazzola pass at 6:54.
Smallman has six goals and 12 points in eight games. Cotton has two goals in eight games. Both are property of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and arrived via Chicago of the higher-level American Hockey League.
Notes: Ernst reviewed the check Wheeling’s Hayden Hodgson performed on Fort Wayne’s Matt Murphy during Friday’s game. Ernst determined no supplemental discipline for kneeing or charging was warranted for Hodgson, who wasn’t penalized in the game. Murphy, who didn’t return to the ice Friday, sat out Saturday’s game because of a deep thigh bruise. … Fort Wayne forward Marco Roy missed an eighth straight game because of a concussion. … The Komets also played without Zach Pochiro, Anthony Nellis, Nolan LaPorte, Jackson Leef and Curtis Leonard. … The referee was Alex Normandin.