The fans cheered for Mike Embach's hat trick. They booed Mickey Lang's three-point night. And they gasped when Komets goaltender Ben Meisner sprawled to the ice in the second period, during a stoppage of play, and left the game because of an accelerated heartbeat and dizziness.
There was no shortage of intrigue in the Komets' 5-4 loss to the Orlando Solar Bears, which ended with goaltender Larkin Saalfrank, a native of Fort Wayne, having stopped 8 of 10 shots in relief of Meisner, who was well enough to remain at the Coliseum for observation.
"My first thing was worry about the safety of my player," Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. "It was a big concern because I couldn't quite tell from afar (what was wrong). I didn't know if it was a calf or a hamstring or something like that. We're not going to discuss the injury right now but it was a concern for me."
According to Komets president Michael Franke, Meisner had experienced dizziness in recent days and was likely to visit an area hospital.
Saalfrank, a former IPFW goaltender, had played only 32 minutes, 58 seconds of professional hockey, in early December with the Federal Hockey League's Danville Dashers. The Komets will have a new goaltender in town Thursday, after failing to get one here in time for the Orlando game.
It was the first appearance at the Coliseum for Lang, the ECHL's leading goal scorer, since he left the Komets on Dec. 26 and demanded a trade. He had 17 goals in 24 Fort Wayne games, and he has 23 in 27 with Orlando.
Lang was dealt to Orlando for David Rutherford, who didn't report, and future considerations that turned into Aaron Clarke.
It was also the return of goalie Cody Reichard, the native of Celina, Ohio, who was 2-4-2 with the Komets before requesting a trade. He was dealt to Utah for future considerations the Komets are still owed, and Utah later traded Reichard to Orlando. On Wednesday, he stopped 46 of 50 shots to improve to 12-3-1 with the Solar Bears.
The Solar Bears scored on their first shot of the game, on a power play at 3:05 of the first period, when Lang sent a cross-ice pass to forward Brad Ross, who scored from the right circle. The Solar Bears scored on their second shot as defenseman Eric Baier connected from just inside the blue line at 5:46.
Komets forward Embach answered with one of the prettiest goals of the season at 7:41. Skating down the left wing, he faked twice, spinning defenseman Cody Wild in circles, before sending the puck into the far side of the net.
The Komets tied it on a power-play goal at 14:46 when Shawn Szydlowski redirected a blue-line shot by Jordon Southorn, who returned before the game from Portland of the higher-level American Hockey League. He had one assist in one game with Portland.
Embach struck again at 19:42, firing the puck from the left circle, getting to his own rebound and sending it into an open net. But Lang tied it 29 seconds into the second period with a one-timer from the slot.
At 7:19 of the second period, with play stopped, Meisner (7 saves on 10 shots) repeatedly fell to the ice and had to be helped off by teammates before he was replaced by Saalfrank, whose only action in the professional ranks had come in a Komets 2012 exhibition game and in half a period with the Single-A Federal Hockey League's Danville Dashers in December.
An an emergency backup – Andrey Makarov had been called up to Rochester of the AHL on Monday – Saalfrank could only play if Meisner were injured.
Saalfrank stopped the first two shots he faced but allowed a goal to defenseman Connor Goggin on a blue-line shot at 17:11 of the second period.
After Lang circled the Fort Wayne net, he set up Jacob Cepis for a 40-foot shot and a 5-3 lead 2:57 into the third period.
Less than a minute later, Embach scored for the Komets from 30 feet out.
Notes: The Komets played without forwards Dean Ouellet (head), Chris Auger (head) and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, the captain.
For more on this story, return to www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. or see Thursday's Journal Gazette.