The Komets have needed versatile players to plow through obstacles these days. Will Graber and Blake Siebenaler, maybe their most adaptable players, came up in a big way tonight in a 4-0 victory over the league-worst Iowa Heartlanders at Memorial Coliseum.
Graber had a goal and two assists. Siebenaler had two goals.
But Jiri Patera may have outshined them all by stopping all 23 shots he faced for the Komets (10-5-2), who play host to the Heartlanders (4-11-3) 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The expansion Heartlanders, who won the only previous meeting between the teams 5-1 on Nov. 21 at the Coliseum, played Friday with only 16 skaters – two short of a full lineup – because of injuries, call-ups and a three-game Cole Stallard suspension for a fracas against Wheeling (he’s eligible to return Saturday).
Fort Wayne finally had something resembling a normal ratio of forwards to defensemen – nine to seven – after they’d recently played with as many as nine defensemen because of injuries, call-ups and positive COVID-19 tests.
The Komets had four players in quarantine – Connor Jones, Samuel Harvey, Shawn Boudrias and Chays Ruddy – along with assistant coach Olivier Legault and equipment manager Skylar Garver. Team officials said players Matthew Barnaby and D.J. King were ill but had tested negative for COVID-19.
Graber, who has moved ably from defenseman to forward (where he played in college) in recent weeks, and has four goals and eight points in the last six games, opened the scoring 1:04 into the first period by smacking the rebound of a Kellen Jones shot past goalie Trevin Kozlowski.
Jones almost made it a two-goal lead by steering around the defense and faking Kozlowski out of position, but the puck hit the post at 13:46.
Tyler Busch had a nifty assist 7:07 into the second period; backing into the corner he sent a pass to Connor Corcoran for a rocketing 35-foot shot and a 2-0 Fort Wayne lead.
One of Patera’s only gaffes came late in the second period, when he held on to the puck too long behind the net and almost gave an easy goal to Yuki Miura, who shot wide just as he was crushed by a check from Anthony Petruzzelli, who got a charging penalty for the play from referee John Lindner.
The Komets’ Siebenaler, who isn’t afraid to rush into the offensive zone despite being a blue-liner, made it 3-0 with a shot from the blue line 7:25 into the third period. He scored again, from the left circle, at 13:05.
Notes: Stephen Harper, the Komets’ Playoff MVP last season, was reassigned to Fort Wayne by the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves. … Oliver Cooper returned to the lineup after missing 15 games. … The Komets released Marcus Ortiz, who was scoreless in two games for Fort Wayne. … Fort Wayne-native Luke Richardson was Iowa’s emergency backup goalie. … Laura Schmidlein will be become the first woman to officiate an ECHL game when she’s one of the linespeople Dec. 11 as the Worcester Railers host the Maine Mariners. … Shawn Szydlowski, recovering from back surgery, was on the bench helping coach Ben Boudreau. … The Komets were also without Matthew Boudens (in AHL), Drake Rymsha (AHL) and Josh Owings