INDIANAPOLIS – Komets coach Gary Graham can start making decisions on his roster – about 12 of the 32 players players will have to be released before the regular season begins – following a 4-1 loss to the Indy Fuel in the preseason opener tonight at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
The Komets have two more exhibition games before they open their 64th season, Friday and Saturday at Memorial Coliseum against the Evansville IceMen.
The regular season opens Oct. 16 at Kalamazoo, Michigan.
On Wednesday, only two players from last season’s team, Connor Kucera, Kyle Thomas, were in the Fort Wayne lineup.
The Fuel, which will face Fort Wayne 11 times this season, opened the scoring 3:56 into the first period on a goal from Cody Sharib, who sent a shot off the right post and tucked the rebound inside the leg of goaltender Andrew Walsh.
Walsh, who stopped 20 of 22 shots before he was replaced by John McLean midway through the second period, is coming off a four-year career at Bemidji State University. McLean, who played last season for Gustavus Adolphus College, stopped 12 of 14 shots.
The Komets had several chances to answer – the best was by Alex Grieve on the rebound of an Austin Levi blue-line shot – but Fuel goalie Shawn Owen was solid and finished with 18 saves on 19 shots in two periods of play.
After Walsh made a flurry of stops, including a diving save on Walker Wintoneak’s 10-foot shot, he was foiled on a Casey Thrush shot for a 2-0 Fuel lead on a power play at 16:28. But Walsh recovered at 17:44 by stopping Reed Seckel at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.
Forward Peter Sivak, who last season played for Orlando and Stockton (15 goals, 46 points, 54 games) scored a power-play goal for the Komets 1:48 into the second period when he tucked in the rebound of a Kyle Thomas shot, cutting the Fuel’s lead to 1.
Moments after Fort Wayne’s Jamie Schaafsma, who captained Allen to the ECHL title last season, was stopped on a breakaway, McLean foiled Indy’s Rhett Bly from point-blank ranged 15:30 into the second period.
A game that had been a lacking a bit in excitement took a turn 6:31 into the third period, when Fort Wayne’s Will Weber drove Bly into the boards from behind, setting off a fight between Weber and Pete Massar.
That added some heat to the game, intensified when Fort Wayne’s Josh Ranalli chopped goalie Alex Fotinos after he made a save.
With the Komets’ goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Indy’s Sam Jardine netted a goal from almost the entire length of the ice at 19:11. The teams played overtime anyway so they could get used to the new ECHL rules of 3-on-3, and Indy's Matt White scored off the rebound of a Jardine shot.
Notes: The Komets have signed a new player, 25-year-old left wing Garrett Thompson, who last season had six goals and 14 points in 65 games with Binghamton of the higher-level American Hockey League. .. The Komets continue to talk with Mike Embach, who last season had 24 goals and 70 points in 69 games with the Komets. He started this season in Sweden and had one goal in nine games with Leksands.