FORT WAYNE – In leading the Komets to a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the defending champion Reading Royals, goaltender Ben Meisner has been impressive.
He stopped 33 of 34 shots in the 3-1 victory at Memorial Coliseum on Friday night. For the series, he has stopped 95.9 percent of the shots he’s faced and has a goals-against average of 1.25.
Benny was really big for us in that first period when we, frankly, didn’t have our game going, said Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham, whose team was outshot 16-8 in the first period.
I thought we got better as the game went on, but so did Benny. He continues to impress me. He’s been very poised in net. But it’s team success right now.
No slump talk
Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock hadn’t scored in the series until the first period, but he didn’t want to talk much about breaking the slump.
It felt good, but it felt better to get the win, he said. Not enough people are talking about Sy Nutkevitch and Jace Coyle, Dean Ouellet and Christian Ouellet, and what they are all doing. Those guys have been there for us. Sy has been in and out of the lineup, but he’s always played well and always worked hard, no matter if he’s the 12th or the 13th guy.
Reading made some changes to its lineup, taking out Josh Brittain, Brandon Blandina, T.J. Syner and Mike Banwell in favor of Nick Bruneteau, Jesse Todd, Aaron Gens and Greg Wolfe.
Brittain, a former Fort Wayne player, had two goals in the first two games. Blandina had one. Gens cost Fort Wayne’s Chris Auger almost all of last season with a knee-to-knee hit, while Gens was with Evansville.
I understood and kind of knew what (Reading coach Larry Courville) wanted to do with the matchups, now that he got a feeling what I wanted to do, Graham said. He put in some bigger size to go up against our one line and he put in some more youth, some more jam. On the defensive corps, obviously Banwell went out (Thursday with an injury), which is tough for them. But Bruneteau and Gens are good young defensemen, and I thought they played well. They have eight young defensemen who can play.
I don’t think there was much of a dropoff with their team tonight and to be honest with you, whenever you put some new young talent in the lineup that’s hungry to play, I think that gives your team a spark and you saw that in the first period. But I thought our response was better in the second and the third period.