INDIANAPOLIS – Taylor Crunk hadn’t scored a goal since the 2016-17 season.
It didn’t take the rugged, bearded forward long to get this season started right for the Komets in a 3-1 victory. And he threw in an epic fight with the Indy Fuel’s Anthony Collins for good measure in Fort Wayne’s 67th regular-season opener at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Justin Hodgman, who also dealt with injury problems last season, had a goal and two assists for the Komets.
Last season was cut short after only 28 games for Crunk because of a hip injury that required surgery – after he had six assists – but the Komets felt he was beginning to show potential beyond just that of hitting and fighting and wanted him back.
He earned his keep tonight in front of 4,856 fans.
The Komets are the only team in the professional ranks Crunk, 23, has ever played for, and coming into tonight he had totaled two goals, 15 points and 192 penalty minutes in 79 games.
In what was a penalty marred first period with five power plays for both teams, the Komets took advantage with a goal during a 5-on-3 power play at 5:05 when Hodgman snuck to the rebound of a Garrett Ladd shot and sent it into an open net. Hodgman missed 30 of 72 regular-season games and 17 of 18 playoff games last season with injuries.
Shortly after a fight – Crunk squared off with Collins – the Fuel tied it at 19:43 with the teams skating 4-on-4. Quentin Shore dashed toward the net and redirected Robert Powers’ shot from the top of the left circle underneath goaltender Zach Fucale, who earlier in the period had foiled Brett Welychka at the end of an odd-man rush.
Fucale, the lone player in Fort Wayne through the new affiliation with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, came up big in the second period by foiling shots from point-blank range by Ryan Rupert and Radovan Bondra. And newcomer Garrett Ross fought Indy’s Josh McArdle.
A tic-tac-toe passing play saw Hodgman drop a pass to Marco Roy, who sent a no-look pass to Crunk for a shot from the right circle for a 2-1 lead 18:12 into the second period.
In the opening minutes of the third period, Indy goalie Jason Pawloski kept his team’s deficit at one goal by thwarting shots by Ross and Roy – both from within 25 feet.
Roy cemented the victory with an empty net goal at 18:58, just after notorious Komet killer Josh Shalla was foiled by Fucale on a shot from 12 feet out.
Fucale totaled 28 saves. Pawloski had 28 as well.
The Komets play at Cincinnati, Ohio, on Saturday night.
Notes: Roy was given the vacant alternate captaincy. Jamie Schaafsma remains captain and Cody Sol the other alternate. … While Phelix Martineau was formally added to the Fort Wayne roster – he had been with Laval of the American Hockey League – he was not in the lineup. … Before the game, the Fuel had the national anthem performed before the Komets had taken to the ice. … A youth player of the game proclaimed his favorite team was not the Chicago Blackhawks, the Fuel’s parent club, but the Golden Knights, the Komets’. That drew a cheer from the Fort Wayne fans in attendance. … The referee was Alex Normandin. … These teams had also met in a preseason home-and-home series that was swept by Fort Wayne.