The Journal Gazette
Saturday, May 15, 2021 1:00 am

Komets defense rises up

After struggling recently, unit recovers in home win

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

It had been awhile since the Komets had been involved in such a low-scoring game, the type they’re more likely to see in the playoffs. The Komets won 2-1 over the Wheeling Nailers on Friday night, and it was a promising sign after their defense had been porous the previous two games, both of which were losses.

“I was pleased from the start of the game, right till the end,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “Even going back to Thursday’s practice habits, I thought we were committed to our craft, knowing we’d laid an egg (in a 4-3 loss to Wheeling) on Wednesday.”

Stephen Harper netted the winning goal, 7:45 into the second period, depositing the rebound of a Randy Gazzola shot into the net to make it 2-1.

Fort Wayne’s goaltender, Dylan Ferguson, stopped 24 of 25 shots, including a bevy of saves in the waning minutes. The Komets hadn’t been in such a low-scoring game since beating Indy 2-1 in overtime on April 11.

“That was a great team win,” Harper said. “You’ve got to give Fergie credit. During the week, after giving up four or five goals in our last couple games, we were harping on our defense and I’m proud of the effort tonight in the defensive zone.”

It was the last of 20 games between Fort Wayne (25-12-4) and league-worst Wheeling (19-31-6) this season. The Komets were 13-4-3 in the season series.

Ferguson had sat out the previous 12 games because of a hand injury suffered stopping a shot in practice. He didn’t face a shot during the first 7:54 tonight. He had maybe the biggest save of the first period, foiling Brendan Harris from 12 feet out at 9:12, but he was bested by Tim Doherty’s 40-foot shot at 14:21, after Fort Wayne turned the puck over in its own zone.

Wheeling goalie Taran Kozun stopped all 18 shots he faced in the first period (Fort Wayne had five), and Kozun’s best stop came on a 10-foot Anthony Petruzzelli shot off a rebound.

Kozun was caught out of position, giving Fort Wayne’s Justin Vaive a look at an open net early in the second period, but Vaive waited too long, switched to his backhand and missed the net. Off the ensuing faceoff, though, Fort Wayne’s Anthony Nellis redirected a Marco Roy pass past Kozun to tie it at 1 at 4:03.

Kozun finished with 35 saves.

The Nailers were without Austin Fyten, who has a team-leading 23 goals in 39 games, because he was suspended three games Friday by the ECHL for his knee-on-knee hit of Petruzzelli with less than 2 seconds remaining in Wednesday’s game, a 4-3 Wheeling victory. The ECHL also suspended Chad Duchesne seven games for trying to hit a fan with his stick, after the fan had thrown something at the Wheeling bench following Fyten’s hit.

Petruzzelli, who was held out of practice Thursday, was in the lineup Friday and had four shots.

Notes: Fort Wayne was 0 for 2 on power plays. Wheeling was 0 for 4. ... The referee was Nolan Bloyer. ... The Komets played without Shawn Szydlowski (back), Olivier Galipeau, Oliver Cooper and Trevor Gorsuch. ... Wheeling had a whopping 15 scratches – 13 injured players and the two suspended – and its players have missed a total of 284 games this season. ... The Komets have a rare Saturday off before playing host to the Indy Fuel at 5 p.m. Sunday. ... The Komets believe capacity for playoff games at the Coliseum will be about 5,080. ... They expect Brandon Hawkins back from the American Hockey League on Monday.


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