The Komets’ Connor Corcoran, Matt Alvaro and Will Graber had chances to tie it on shots from point-blank range late in the third period, but Kalamazoo Wings goaltender Jet Greaves came up big when he needed to do so Wednesday night.
Greaves stopped 23 of 26 shots to lead the Wings to a 4-3 victory over the Komets in front of 2,983 fans at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Kalamazoo (7-4-0) scored on 1 of 6 power plays. Fort Wayne (8-4-1) was 0 for 3, but it remained in first place in the Central Division despite back-to-back losses.
Jiri Patera stopped 23 of 27 shots for the Komets, so riddled by call-ups and injuries that they played with eight defensemen – two more than normal – and only eight forwards.
Connor Jones, D.J. King and Nick Jermain scored for the Komets, who have a two-point lead in the division over Cincinnati and Toledo, after Cincinnati defeated Toledo 9-2 on Wednesday. The Komets play host to Toledo at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.
Jones opened the scoring 2:35 into the first period with a one-timer from the right circle, after his brother, Kellen, had sent him a cross-ice pass.
Graber was penalized for high-sticking at 5:28 – tussling for the puck along the boards, he caught Erik Bradford in the chin – and Matheson Iacopelli scored for the fourth-place Wings on the ensuing power play by redirecting a Bradford shot at 7:27.
Kalamazoo’s Kyle Blaney made it 2-1 just 1:31 later by backhanding a rebound past Patera, but Fort Wayne’s King redirected a Connor Jones blue-line shot at 16:37 to tie it at 2.
The Komets opened up the second period on a power play, thanks to a roughing penalty on Collin Saccoman, but Greaves stopped four close-range shots during the man-advantage to keep it at 2-all.
Logan Lambdin put the Wings ahead 3-2 by snapping a shot from the bottom of the left circle that sailed past Patera and slipped just underneath the crossbar at 3:48, on just Kalamazoo’s ninth shot of the game.
The Komets responded again as Jermain flicked the rebound of a Marcus McIvor shot in at 12:09 on Fort Wayne’s 13th shot of the game, but the Wings’ Bradford scored 1:03 later for a 4-3 lead thanks to Zach Jordan’s no-look setup from behind the Fort Wayne net.
Tensions, building throughout the game, boiled over 9:44 into the third period when Blaney fought Fort Wayne’s Aaron Huffnagle after Greaves made a big save. And Fort Wayne’s Matthew Barnaby fought Kalamazoo’s Justin Murray at 18:09, though Barnaby got an extra penalty for roughing that put the Wings on a power play the remainder of the game with a one-goal lead.
When the Komets face the Walleye on Thursday, it’ll be the annual Bob Chase Memorial Game, named after the team's longtime broadcaster, who died in 2016. The Komets will wear 1985-86 throwback jerseys that'll be auctioned off in the Memorial Coliseum lobby to benefit WOWO's Penny Pitch recipient: GiGi's Playhouse Fort Wayne, a down syndrome achievement center. Toledo will wear Goaldiggers throwback jerseys.
Notes: The referee was Rocco Stachowiak. … Shawn Szydlowski, a forward re-signed by the Komets on Wednesday afternoon, was immediately placed on injured reserve as he gets his surgically repaired back ready for pro contact. … Defenseman Corbin Baldwin made his Fort Wayne debut after injuring his knee training in the offseason. He was minus-2.