Komets coach Ben Boudreau said it likened to a playoff performance, the type a team needs to close out a difficult series.
Not a bad analogy.
The Komets played with a makeshift lineup Friday night. But they got what they needed – good goaltending, good special teams, opportunistic scoring and even some gritty plays such as D.J. King’s two shot blocks and newcomer Marcus Ortiz's involvement in some fracases – as the Komets defeated the Kalamazoo Wings 4-2 in front of 6,155 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“'Pleased’ is probably not the best way to describe it. ‘Impressed,’ I would say, from a 17-man commitment and going in playing a man short (of a full lineup),” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “Everybody gave everything of themselves, plus more, and they did it as a team. There were no individuals, no passengers. It was a complete and total buy-in.”
For Fort Wayne (7-2-1), netminder Samuel Harvey stopped 39 of 41 shots, bringing his season statistics to 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average, a .969 save percentage and a shutout. Jet Greaves turned away 27 of 41 for Kalamazoo (5-4-0).
The Komets scored on 2 of 4 power plays. The Wings were 0 for 2.
“I thought it was great,” said King, son of Chicago Blackhawks coach Derek King. “I thought we were really good in the O zone and, more importantly, I thought we were really good in the D zone. I thought the forwards, the defensemen, and when your goalie is hot like Sammy is, it makes it easy for us. We were breaking it out clean, getting pucks out, blocking shots, and I thought it was a good team effort.”
It was the first of three games in as many nights at the Coliseum, a rarity in the 70-season history of the Komets, and a difficult stretch for a team missing more than half of its optimal lineup because of call-ups and injuries. Of the four Komets who wear letters – captain Matthew Boudens and alternates Anthony Petruzzelli, Marcus McIvor and Blake Siebenaler – only Petruzzelli was on the ice.
The Komets’ goals came from Connor Jones, Matthew Barnaby, Matt Alvaro and Petruzzelli.
“Kalamazoo is a good team. They’re fast, they’re physical,” D.J. King said. “So we had to match their intensity and I thought we did a really good job of it.”
The game opened with Will Graber’s excellent chance to score for the Komets; he stickhandled through four defenders before trying to lift a shot that was gloved by Greaves 2:53 into the first period.
But Greaves was defenseless to stop Jones from 15 feet out, on the rebound of twin brother Kellen Jones’ shot during a power play, and it was 1-0 Komets at 5:32. It snapped a string of 95:13 in which Fort Wayne hadn’t scored a goal, including a 1-0 loss Wednesday on the road to the Indy Fuel.
Barnaby made it 2-0 with a shot from the left circle that trickled between Greaves’ legs and just over the goal line at 6:11. It was Barnaby’s first ECHL goal – he spent last season in the lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League – and his father, Matthew, a longtime NHL player, was in the stands.
Harvey made a flurry of saves late in the period but was helpless after teammate Aaron Huffnagle sent an ill-advised pass in front of the Fort Wayne net that was intercepted by Erik Bradford to set up a Logan Lambdin goal at 17:58. That ended a stretch of 107:39 in which Harvey hadn’t allowed a goal, including his 39-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Toledo Walleye on Nov. 13 at the Coliseum.
The Komets’ Alvaro – who has five goals in 10 games – made it 3-1 by coming out of the corner, speeding to the rebound of a Nick Jermain shot, and flicking it past Greaves as Alvaro fell to the ice. Jermain had missed the previous five games with COVID-19.
It remained 3-1 at the end of the period, thanks to Harvey’s stop of Zach Jordan on a breakaway at 17:00.
Petruzzelli scored a power-play goal at 10:17 of the third period, with a flick from the left circle, but Kalamazoo’s Brenden Miller answered with a 25-footer just 51 seconds later.
“The commitment was evident from everybody,” Boudreau said. “For the game plan that we had to put in place, we knew that we couldn’t go run-and-gun with these guys, we just had to commit to playing a good defensive game. When you’ve got a guy like Harvey, playing the way he is – he’s going to see all the shots from the outside and we try to limit the quality chances inside the dots – he’s been impressive and our guys have been impressive.
“From the coaches, I'm extremely impressed and just very pleased that we got through that thing.”
Notes: The referee was Jack Young. … The Komets were without several players called up to the American Hockey League, including: Boudens and Tyler Busch with Henderson; Siebenaler with Belleville; and Drake Rymsha with Hershey. Matt Murphy was released by Belleville and will rejoin the Komets. … Out with injuries were Shawn Boudrias, McIvor and Corbin Baldwin. Sam Babintsev remained out because of immigration work visa issues. … Tonight, when the Komets play host to the Wheeling Nailers, the Komets will wear special “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” jerseys that will be auctioned to benefit Humane Fort Wayne, a pet shelter and adoption program. The link to bid is live at bit.ly/FWK_Auctions.