The Komets were scrambling for bodies last week, thanks to call-ups, injuries, illnesses (including COVID-19) and even an immigration work visa problem. But it hasn’t stopped them from cruising along. They won their fifth in a row Saturday night, 3-0, over the rival Toledo Walleye in front of 7,494 fans at Memorial Coliseum on Military Appreciation Night.
“I think it just speaks to the group we have. And I think it speaks to how everybody’s bought into the system we want to play and the brand of hockey we want to play,” said Matt Alvaro, who finished the scoring with his fourth goal in five games. “I think when you see results early, it gives you confidence. And we have confidence in every guy in that lineup. It doesn’t matter who (coach Ben Boudreau) is dressing, who’s in or who’s out. We have great faith in the guys that are putting the jerseys on and it’s good to be rewarded.”
Two of the Komets’ more unheralded players, Josh Owings and Aaron Huffnagle, scored. But they were outshined by goaltender Samuel Harvey, who stopped 39 shots for the Komets’ first shutout of the season.
“It’s my first pro shutout, so it feels great,” said Harvey, who spent seven games last season as a rookie with the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda, and is now 2-0-0 with a .977 save percentage for the Komets. “The guys were playing unbelievable in front of me and were trying to make it easy saves for me to do, and they took care of the rebounds. It feels good but now we’ve got to do it again (today against Wheeling).”
Kaden Fulcher thwarted 15 shots for Toledo (5-4-0), which is 0-2-0 this season against Fort Wayne (6-1-0).
Fulcher was terrific early, sprawling to keep the puck just out of the goal after Connor Jones and Shawn Boudrias came barreling in at 3:54.
However, Fulcher undoubtedly wants back the shot that came at 10:49, when Owings spun and shot from just inside the blue line, sending the puck through his legs for a 1-0 lead.
The Komets took a 2-0 lead when Huffnagle, called up from Birmingham of the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League on Thursday, scored on a breakaway 6:48 into the second period. It was set up by a nifty 80-foot Boudrias pass through the defense. Huffnagle’s goal came on Fort Wayne’s only shot of the first 19:29 of the second period.
Alvaro made it 3-0 by flicking a shot that caromed off a sliding defenseman and knuckled over Fulcher 28 seconds into the third period.
“It’s been a next-man-up mentality,” Boudreau said. “I’m really happy to see guys get rewarded. Huffnagle did a great job, contributing when he could. Almost every single player right now is finding a way. Josh Owings, he found himself in the lineup and he scores a big goal. He’s not known for scoring goals, but he gets rewarded for putting pucks on the net. I just think the way our team is committed right now, it’s like we’re playing playoff hockey with the way we’ve come together so quick.
“It reminds me of the group we had last season and the belief in the locker room that we could achieve great things together – not as individuals, but as a team.”