The Komets’ power play had been trending in the right direction. It skyrocketed today, though.
The Komets scored on 3 of 6 power-play opportunities, keying them to a 5-2 comeback victory over the Kalamazoo Wings in front of 6,621 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“I think it’s just about moving the puck quick,” said forward Matt Alvaro, who had a power-play goal and three assists. “They have a pretty aggressive penalty kill and we knew that, especially from playing them Wednesday (in a 5-4 loss), so if we move the puck quick then I think we can get looks.”
Alvaro scored on the rebound of a Shawn Boudrias shot that ricocheted off the post. He also had a scintillating no-look pass through the crease to set up an even-strength goal by Zach Pochiro, who had a goal and two assists.
Lynden McCallum, in just his third game since coming down from Henderson of the American Hockey League, had a power-play goal from the right circle, after Alvaro fed him from the corner, and an empty-net goal.
Anthony Petruzzelli scored a power-play goal, redirecting a Will Graber shot.
“The first couple power plays, we were kind of skating with the puck and not moving it, so they were pressuring us into turning it over,” Alvaro said. “Once we started moving the puck, shooting it, we could get second-chance opportunities and we were rewarded.”
The Komets came into the night ranked 24th among the ECHL’s 27 teams with a 15.7% efficiency on their power plays.
“Sometimes it just clicks and we’ve made adjustments on the fly,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “We’re getting new guys in there, like (McCallum and Darien Kielb), but I felt like we had been knocking on the doorstep and weren’t getting the bounces. … I thought tonight we did, the puck landing on our stick after a shot and a rebound. And it’s the simple things about getting to the areas where you’ve got to go to score goals. Petey’s goal was 5 feet out from the net. Alvaro’s, that was a tap-in.”
The defending-champion Komets (18-12-4) have scored on 10 of 36 power-play opportunities over their last seven games. They’re only 2-4-1 in that span but, to be fair, there have been some unlucky happenings – namely the puck caroming off a seam in the Wings Event Center boards to give Kalamazoo (19-13-0) the winning goal with 52 seconds remaining Wednesday.
The Komets’ goalie caught understandably out of position when that happened was Liam Hughes, who was supposed to start Saturday’s game at Toledo, Ohio, a 3-2 loss by Fort Wayne, yet was absent after warm-ups due to an undisclosed injury/illness that was non-COVID related.
That left Mario Culina to play three games in three days and he stopped 28 of 30 shots today, while Kalamazoo’s Jason Pawloski thwarted 23 of 27. Culina, who allowed goals to Jake Slaker and Tanner Sorenson, is now 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage.
Kalamazoo was 0 for 6 on power plays.
“I can just say this is relief,” Boudreau said. “It stinks when you’re losing, but I felt we’d deserved a better fate Wednesday, losing the way we did with the bad bounce and tap-in (Logan Lambdin) goal. Then it was a one-goal game on Friday and a one-goal game on Saturday. It’s not like we were playing bad, we just didn’t have the luck. To come back from a 2-nothing deficit to finish the eight games in 12 nights, it’ a huge sigh of relief going into a 72-hour break for the all-stars.”
The Komets are off until 7:30 p.m. Saturday, when the play host to the Cincinnati Cyclones, who have a one-point lead over Fort Wayne for second place in the division. Kalamazoo is two points back of Fort Wayne.
“When you’re depleted (by call-ups and injuries), you’re leaning on your players a lot more and they’re playing a lot of minutes,” Boudreau said. “There’s ice bags on the bodies in that locker room, there were a lot of blocked shots, and it’s tough. For us to finish on a high note and take some sort of success here into this break, I hope we can find a way to carry it over into next weekend.”
The ECHL’s All-Star Classic will be 7:30 p.m. Monday in Jacksonville, Florida, and pit a team of ECHL players against the host Icemen. The Komets had a player chosen to compete, goalie Samuel Harvey, but he’s been in the higher-level American Hockey League with San Jose since Dec. 27. The Komets will not be sending a replacement.
Notes: Defenseman Matt Murphy was called up to Abbotsford of the AHL. He’d previously been called to Belleville and Providence of the AHL this season. The Komets have had nine players called up a total of 17 times to 11 different teams, and that doesn’t include the players on NHL or AHL contracts. … It’s unclear if the Komets will replace Hughes, though multiple sources said a search for a new goalie has already begun after the team needed to use equipment manager Skyler Garver as an emergency backup goalie on Saturday and Luke Richardson as an EBUG on today. ECHL teams have used at least 50 different EBUGs this season, an incredible amount, at least 60 times.