FORT WAYNE – Komets coach Gary Graham and general manager David Franke will meet today with all 29 players still in training camp.
About seven of them will be told they are being released.
They had their last chance Saturday night to try and prove they deserve a spot on the roster in the Komets’ 62nd season of hockey. And those who played did well in a 6-2 victory over the Wheeling Nailers at Memorial Coliseum.
I went (to the locker room) and told everybody, man to man, that I appreciate them committing to Fort Wayne, said Graham, whose team was 2-1-0 in the preseason with two wins over the Nailers.
It was a very great group in training camp, the best group I’ve ever worked with. Everybody was positive and worked hard. We got better each and every day, which is all I asked of the guys. Tonight was the summation of everything. Tonight was our best hockey.
The Komets got two goals apiece from John Dunbar and Mickey Lang, and Chris Auger and Matthew Larke also scored.
Goaltender John Muse stopped 22 of 24 shots. That included a second-period breakaway save on Jack MacLellan and a diving stop to foil Nicholas Kuqali’s shot toward an empty in the third period.
It was a chance to respond after (Friday night’s 5-2 loss at Kalamazoo, Mich.), Graham said. We said before the game that good teams don’t lose back-to-back games, and the guys took that to heart. We had a better first period and that was big for us, to actually play with a lead and get that positivity going, that confidence going.
The Komets open the regular season Saturday at the Coliseum against the Toledo Walleye.
As most of the Coliseum was focused on the aftermath of a hit by Fort Wayne’s Nik Pokulok about 90 feet away, the Komets put the puck in the net at 4:32 into the first period. An odd-man rush that saw Dunbar and Tristan King passing the puck back and forth culminated with a Dunbar goal and a 1-0 lead.
With the Komets short-handed at 13:33, Scott Fleming won a race for the puck, circled the Wheeling net and sent a pass to Auger for a goal and a 2-0 lead.
Dunbar caromed the puck off the back of goalie Mike Condon’s leg and into the net for a 3-0 lead at 2:55 of the second period, which was followed by Lang’s back-to-back goals for a 5-0 lead.
Auger and Dunbar led the Komets in the preseason with three goals each. Auger, who missed almost all of last season because of a knee injury, led the Komets in preseason scoring with five points in three games. Dunbar had four points. Fleming had one goal and three points.
Notes: The Komets played without forwards Mike Vaskivuo (groin), Jake Hauswirth, Matt Firman, Darick Ste. Marie and Keegan Flaherty, defensemen Kyle Follmer (groin) and William Lacasse, plus goalie Max Strang. Goalie Larkin Saalfrank, a native of Fort Wayne, was released.