The Komets completed their preseason with a 2-0-0 record, capped by a 6-5 victory Saturday over the Wheeling Nailers in an overtime shootout at Memorial Coliseum.
There's plenty on which the Komets need to work – they coughed up leads before winning both games in extra time – but the regular-season opener cannot arrive soon enough for the players.
“Everyone's hungry right now to just get into it,” said Brady Shaw, who netted the winning goal in an excruciatingly long 11-round shootout that saw only three goals. “You saw it the last two nights; those were some pretty intense preseason games. I don't know if I really expected that, but it's good to get your feet wet in those types of games.”
Coach Ben Boudreau, whose Komets open this Saturday at the Coliseum against the Kalamazoo Wings, might have preferred an even longer training camp. His decisions are going to be difficult as he pares his roster from 28 to about 20.
“The decisions are going to be extremely difficult,” he said. “You look at a guy like (Alan) Lyszczarczyk. He might not always look like the biggest presence, but he finds a way to get on the scoresheet. He's created offense every night I've seen him and he scored a big shootout goal out there (tonight).
“Connor Sanvido, all he's done since he's arrived is score goals. He came out of the University of Lethbridge and is slotted to play in the (Southern Professional Hockey League), but how can you send a guy there if all he does is score for you? And he's not even on special teams. And guys like Taylor Ross have flashes and (Ian) Mackey and (Gage) Torrel are huge role guys. We're going to have really tough decisions up front.”
The defensive corps are a little more set. And so is the goaltending of Vegas Golden Knights prospect Dylan Ferguson, who stopped 26 of 30 shots Friday, and Los Angeles Kings prospect Cole Kehler, who stopped 17 of 21 shots and then 10 of 11 shootout attempts Saturday. Kehler came in midway through the second period to replace Stephen Dhillon, who stopped 7 of 8 shots, including a Ryan Scarfo breakaway.
On Friday, the Komets squandered early dominance by allowing four consecutive goals, and then they rallied with two goals in the final 5:57 before Shane Bennett won the 5-4 game in overtime. On Saturday, the Komets had a 3-1 lead on goals from Sanvido, Ross and Brett McKenzie, and they had 20 of the first 22 shots.
“I thought we played as a team in the first period, and that's what I would expect from us,” Boudreau said. “And then I thought the level dropped off after that. I told them, 'I can understand that. It's an exhibition game and everyone is trying to play safe, trying to get through to Saturday.' But I told them that at the same time, as a coach, I can't accept that.”
Cam Brown began the Nailers' comeback with a shot from the bottom of the right circle 13:52 into the second period. After Yushiro Hirano tied it at 3, Fort Wayne's Olivier Galipeau netted a 50-foot shot at 19:42.
Brandon Hawkins, who had five goals for Wheeling in the series, scored twice in the third period while Fort Wayne's Matthew Boudens had the other goal, on a spinning 10-foot shot.