Not many of the Komets' players knew Bob Chase personally. But they felt his presence Thursday night and delivered the kind of victory the late broadcaster would have loved.
The Komets defeated the Wheeling Nailers 3-0 in a game that saw Cole Kehler stop 20 shots, Brady Shaw score a magnificent goal and three teammates drop the gloves to fight.
“It's really special. It's a big night for everybody,” said Kehler, who had the Komets' first shutout since Dec. 31, 2017, when Michael Houser thwarted Toledo with 37 saves. “To be able to do this in front of the whole building, and in front of the (Chase) family coming into town, it's obviously very special and it was a big team win, all around.”
The Komets improved to 38-17-4 in the annual Thanksgiving Day game, which was rebranded as the Bob Chase Memorial Game after his death, at age 90, on Thanksgiving 2016. Chase called 63 seasons of Komets hockey for WOWO radio.
The team wore jerseys honoring Chase and they were raffled off to benefit WOWO's Penny Pitch charity that raises money for Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. Chase's family, in a Coliseum suite, was saluted by the 7,740 fans in attendence.
“It was a feel-good win, 100%,” coach Ben Boudreau said. “Honestly, it's such a feel-good win, a great win on home ice. For the Bob Chase faithful, we did it for them. I even reached out to (former Komets coach Gary Graham) and said, 'We're going to do this for you and Bob tonight,' because I know how much Bob meant to Gary. It was just a collective win for the organization as a whole.”
The Komets scored on 3 of 4 power plays. Brett McKenzie poked the puck through the legs of goalie Jordan Ruby 7:15 into the first period. Shaw made it 2-0 by redirecting an Alan Lyszczarczyk cross-ice pass into the top of the net at 14:32. And Shawn St-Amant finished the scoring on a 25-foot shot 18:41 left in the game.
Ruby had 29 saves, as the Nailers (8-6-4) were swept in the three-game series by Fort Wayne (11-6-2).
It was an statement game for the Komets' defense, after it came in ranked 23rd among the ECHL's 26 teams with 4.00 goals against per game. The onus had been on the top-ranked offense.
“I think this was important,” Kehler said. “I think it shows that this team, not only can we score a lot but we showed that we can play that stingy style. Even though we're young, we showed that we can do the right things and we can be successful in the defensive zone.”
There were two fights in the first period, starting with Fort Wayne's Shawn Szydlowski taking on Aaron Titcomb. Then, there was a wild one between Kyle Haas and Wheeling's Brad Drobot.
In the second, the Komets' Matthew Boudens fought Fort Wayne native Blake Siebenaler.
“Playing for Bob Chase tonight, you could tell everyone was buying in,” Boudreau said. “They had a long travel day and we wanted to come out early and get to the body. Leave it to a guy who has played (seven seasons) for the Komets in Shawn Szydlowski; he got the crowd rocking and got the team on his back.
“Haas quickly followed it up with a fight. He was playing to the crowd and he drew another penalty and we (got the Shaw goal) on that power play. Those are things that might not show up on the stat sheet, but it was a collective team effort, giving ourselves a chance to win.”