Cole Kehler was sprawling all around the goal crease Thursday night, stopping odd-man rushes and doorstep shots galore for the Komets.
It looked as if the shooters were aiming toward holes that just weren't there and maybe there's something to that since Kehler is one of the rare goalies who catches with his right hand and holds the stick with his left.
“I don't know if it makes too much of a difference. Maybe it throws a few guys off once in awhile,” Kehler said. “If it does that, then good for me.”
Whatever Kehler was doing Thursday, it worked. He had 20 saves in a 3-0 victory over the Wheeling Nailers – Fort Wayne's first shutout since Michael Houser had one Dec. 31, 2017 – and it happened in front of 7,740 fans at Memorial Coliseum for the Bob Chase Memorial Game that honors the late, longtime broadcaster for WOWO.
Kehler, who is with the Komets through the informal working agreement with the Los Angeles Kings, is 5-2-1 with a 3.10 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage for the Komets. He has also spent time this season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League.
“I just want to be the best Fort Wayne Komet I can be when I'm here,” Kehler said. “I'm here to help this team win and get points. I'm happy to be part of such a storied organization. (Thursday) showed why it's got so much culture and so much history. It's awesome to be a part of it.”
Last season, Kehler, 21, was 7-8-0 with a 4.25 GAA and a .883 SP in 17 games for the now-defunct Manchester Monarchs.
The Komets have used several goalies this season, including Matthew Villalta, Dylan Ferguson and Stephen Dhillon, but Kehler leads them in all the key statistical categories.
Of the 14 goaltenders in the six-team North Division, only two catch with their right hands – Kehler and Wheeling's Alex D'Orio – and they've squared off a couple times this season in an oddity.
Of the 64 goalies on ECHL rosters, only eight catch right-handed. And only seven of the ECHL's 26 teams have such a goalie.
Thursday's victory was a statement game for the Komets, who have been led by their top-ranked offense (4.26 goals per game) and hindered by their 22nd-ranked defense (3.79 goals against) much of the season.
“Now it's going to be a challenge to repeat that performance, not only from myself but from the guys in front of me. It's going to be a good test going forward,” Kehler said.
The Komets (11-6-2) play host to the Cincinnati Cyclones (13-5-1) at 7:30 p.m. today at the Coliseum, where it will be Star Wars Night. Fans are encouraged to dress up and interact with the characters on hand. The first 2,000 kids will receive lightsabers. And the Komets will wear special jerseys that will be auctioned off to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Fort Wayne.
It will also be the first game at the Coliseum for longtime Fort Wayne defenseman Cody Sol, who has three goals and eight points in 15 games with the Cyclones
On Sunday, the Komets play at 3 p.m. against the Kalamazoo Wings (5-9-2) in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Komets would love to repeat the recipe of Thursday, when they had stingy defense, scored on three power plays and participated in three fights.
“We've just got to focus on the simple things,” Kehler said. “We didn't do anything too fancy. We played a simple game. We got pucks deep and we got pucks out when we needed to. If we can keep building on the little things and on keeping it simple, I think it's going to be a path to success.”
Komets vs. Cincinnati
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Memorial Coliseum
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Wings Event Center, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM