Komets fans are accustomed to the unique skill set Will Graber brings to the ice, playing every position short of goaltender during games, but this was jaw-dropping even for him.
Graber scored twice within the span of 11 seconds – including one on a penalty shot – to propel the Komets to a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones, in front of a crowd of 7,121 on Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
“I thought he played a very focused and determined game. Graber, that to me was a playoff mentality. Like, he went in and just completely focused on what his job was,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said.
The Komets were so desperate for goaltending a couple weeks ago, there were jokes around the Coliseum that maybe they should put Graber into pads. But Mario Culina has emerged as a good option; he stopped 29 shots for the shutout.
“I thought we had a solid team effort the whole 60 minutes,” Culina said. “They made my night easy, kept most of the shots to the outside, and that's all a goalie can ask for.”
It was the Komets' fourth shutout of the season by four different goalies. Samuel Harvey, Jiri Patera and Bailey Brkin had the others. Culina has played four straight games since arriving from Brock University.
“I think he's been real solid,” Graber said. “It's been awesome to see that his confidence has definitely grown. You've seen it that every game he's gotten better. To cap it off with a great shutout tonight – he came up with some huge saves, especially in the second period when they were knocking on the door, and he shut them out – and we were able to get a couple more (goals) and really put them away.”
Cincinnati's Brendan Bonello, also a rookie, stopped 8 of 11 before he was yanked in the second period. His replacement, Sean Bonar, thwarted 17 of 18.
It took perfect execution of a faceoff in their own end to set up the Komets for their first goal, by Graber, 7:20 into the first period. Graber won the draw back to Darien Kielb, who fed Shawn Szydlowski, who set up Shawn Boudrias along the boards, and his backhand pass put Graber alone in front of the net for a 1-0 lead.
After the ensuing faceoff, Graber split the defense but was obstructed on the breakaway by Cincinnati's Scott Kirton and Brandon Yeamans, setting up a penalty shot on which Graber slowed to almost a crawl and snapped a shot above the goalie's glove.
Graber scoring twice within only 11 seconds, amazingly, wasn't a franchise record – Garrett Meurs had goals 4 seconds apart in 2016 at the Coliseum.
Boudrias skated out from the behind the Cincinnati net and smacked the rebound of his own backhand shot underneath Bonello for a 3-0 lead 3:30 into the second period. Kielb beat Bonar, who played a game this season for Fort Wayne (19-12-4, .600 winning percentage), with a shot from the blue line at 12:23.
For Cincinnati (20-15-1, .569), Jesse Schultz got a major penalty and a game misconduct for spearing Graber in the third period. And the Cyclones' Jack Van Boeckel was booted for leaving the bench to join a fracas.