Kalamazoo Wings forward Chris Collins streaked in from the right wing and put his best fake with the puck on Komets goaltender Lukas Hafner, but it wasn’t enough to get a goal off the nimble 6-foot netminder, who sprawled to the ice late in the second period Thursday.
It was a night of great goaltending from both Hafner and Kalamazoo’s Jake Hildebrand, one that saw the Komets secure a 2-1 victory in front of 7,419 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
It was going to take something amazing to break the deadlock and it did.
Fort Wayne’s Jake Kamrass poked the puck to Justin Hodgman along the boards and he broke in alone on Hildebrand before dropping a no-look pass to Kamrass to deposit the puck into the top of the net 4:47 into the third period.
(Video of the goal and more is above.)
Captain Jamie Schaafsma made it 2-0 during a power-play at 9:11 by sending a shot from behind the net and flicking off Hildebrand’s pad and into the net.
With goalie Zach Fucale in Davos, Switzerland, playing for Canada in the Spengler Cup, Hafner stopped 24 shots for the Komets, who narrowly missed their first shutout since Dec. 31, 2017, when Michael Houser stopped 37 shots against Toledo.
Collins scored at 17:32 for the Wings.
Hildebrand stopped 37 for the Wings (14-14-1), who fell two points back of the Komets (15-12-1) for fourth place in the Central Division.
The first period had fast-paced, end-to-end hockey that saw Fort Wayne outshoot Kalamazoo 12-10, though no goals were scored.
Fort Wayne’s best chance came late in the period when Hodgman carried the puck the length of the ice to feed Brady Shaw for a 15-foot shot that was turned away by Hildebrand.
Seconds later, at the other end of the ice, Hafner stopped Collins’ attempt from just outside the right goalpost to keep the game scoreless. Hafner came up with another beautiful save at 17:52, when he swatted a Tyler Granly shot out of the mid-air at the end of a Kalamazoo odd-man rush.
Hildebrand had another sparkling save on Shaw – after a tic-tac-toe passing play 4:41 into the second period – to keep it scoreless with Fort Wayne on a power play. And Hildebrand kicked away a Shawn Szydlowski shot at the end of an odd-man rush, while Fort Wayne was short-handed, at 8:20.
Hafner, not to be outdone, shortly thereafter stopped a Justin Taylor breakaway with a kick of his left leg and a Kyle Bushee shot from point-blank range, though Fort Wayne’s advantage in shots was 20-13.
Notes: Komets forward Taylor Crunk served the first half of his two-game suspension for hitting and attempting to fight Toledo’s A.J. Jenks. … The Komets re-signed defenseman Brandon Lubin and forward Joseph Widmar. … J.C. Campagna (eye) and Cody Sol (knee) remained out, while Trey Phillips was away for personal reasons. ... The referee was Jeff Parker. … Komets assistant coach Ben Boudreau has been added to the roster for the alumni game against the Trine house league team 7:30 p.m. Friday at Thunder Ice Arena in Angola.