It took four trades in five weeks – the latest being Thursday’s five-player swap with Gwinnett that brought into town Mike Embach and Nathan Martine – but maybe the Komets are finally finding their way.
A commanding 4-1 win over the Evansville IceMen on Sunday was Fort Wayne’s third win in four games.
“I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. All the guys we’ve brought in are great guys, good team guys, really positive attitudes in the room. That’s what we were kind of missing early on, and it’s helped us in these games,” said Scott Fleming, who has also recently gotten new teammates in Jordon Southorn, Kenton Miller and Phil Mangan.
On Saturday night, in a 4-1 victory at Kalamazoo, it was Embach who led the way with a goal and two assists. On Sunday, the damage was done primarily by Brandon Marino, who had a goal and three assists, and Chris Auger, who had two goals.
This is only the second time this season the Komets (10-8-4) have won two or more games consecutively.
“We sure hope we’ve turned a corner. We have been playing well and, the last two nights, our goalies have been playing great. That has really helped us out. But we’ve got to keep building and getting better,” said Fleming, whose teammate, goaltender Cody Reichard, stopped 40 shots Sunday.
Auger opened the scoring with a shot from the left circle 49 seconds into the game, inciting the fans to litter the ice with hundreds, maybe thousands, of stuffed animals, as part of the Teddy Bear Toss. The Disorderly Bear Den of Good Bears of the World will distribute the stuffed animals to abused, traumatized or at-risk children and lonely adults.
The IceMen didn’t get their first shot on goal until the 8-minute mark. The Komets had 14 of the first 18 shots, including Marino’s goal at 11:41 when Marino skated to the slot and sent a rebound through a crowd of players for a 2-0 lead.
Auger scored again, at 17:31, with a 30-foot wrist shot, and Fleming scored from the same distance for a 4-0 lead 56 seconds into the second period.
“For us, we’re still learning how to finish teams off the right way. I thought we cut some corners there in the third period,” said Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham, whose team allowed a goal to Jacob Johnston. “We got away from our game a little bit there, but that’s something we can learn from and grow from.”
It was the IceMen’s first game at Memorial Coliseum this season, and they had in their lineup Tristan King, who was reassigned from Fort Wayne by the NHL’s Dallas Stars on Friday. King was scoreless and minus-3.
It’s the first time this season the Komets have been two games above .500, and a crowd of 6,489 attended. The Komets are 2-2-0 against the IceMen (12-7-3).
Garrett Bartus stopped 30 of 34 shots in 53:02 for Evansville, and Curtis Martinu stopped the only shot he faced after that. “We need to keep working hard in practice,” Graham said. “You can’t cut corners. Winning teams come with a steady approach. You win games on the weekends because of the work you put in on the weekdays.”
Notes: Before the game, former coach, general manager and owner Ken Ullyot, who died Thursday at 92, was honored. … The Komets will wear KDU patches the remainder of the season. … Funeral services for Ullyot will be 2 p.m. Wednesday at D.O. McComb & Sons Lakeside Park Funeral Home, 1140 Lake Ave., with calling one hour prior. Calling will also be 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Burial will be in Riverview Cemetery, Churubusco. Memorials may be made to the Fort Wayne Youth Hockey or the SPCA. To sign the online guest book, go to www.mccombandsons.com.