Things just got very interesting.
It’s unlikely the Komets will be able to carry three goaltenders indefinitely. But even if they could, the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings are going to want their prospects, Dylan Ferguson and Cole Kehler, respectively, playing.
So what are the Komets to do?
Patrick Munson is coming off a 27-save performance in Saturday night’s 6-3 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings, which came on the heels of him stopping 34 shots in a 5-2 road victory Friday over the Indy Fuel, which came on the heels of an eight-game winless streak that saw him play once – stopping 29 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss to the division’s top team, Cincinnati, on Dec. 21.
“Munson has steadied us back there. He’s making saves and bailing us out,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “That’s not a dig at Fergie. It’s not a dig at Kehler. Both those guys have played like that before. They’ve given us those moments before. We’re just looking for someone to give it to us consistently.”
Boudreau conceded the goaltending situation is “complicated” moving forward.
Asked about his mentality as the third goalie, Munson said: “I don’t really think about it too much. I try to give Benny as much confidence in me as I can every day in practice. I just want to keep working hard. I’ve got a lot of belief in myself and I know when I get in there, I’m going to give the guys a chance to win.”
I know some of you are going to suggest the Komets just call the Golden Knights or Kings and tell them to take one of their goalies back. It’s not nearly that easy, since you risk alienating those teams and not getting any more help from them this season or beyond.
It’s further complicated because the Komets have a more formal affiliation with the Golden Knights, who have a goalie, Ferguson, considered a pretty big prospect and needs to be playing at this level. But they have given much less help to the Komets than the Kings, who I’m guessing might be more willing to move Kehler if asked, but they’d need to find an ECHL team that wants a goalie and, of course, you risk getting the Kings peeved. And Kehler has been more reliable than Ferguson so far, with a larger body of work, so do you really want to go that route?
It really is dizzying.
“It’s something you don’t want to be talking about with the public,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got two affiliations and we’ve only been able to keep this guy (Munson) around and if he keeps playing this way, it’s going to create more problems for us. At the end of the day, we want to win here in Fort Wayne. We all understand what’s at stake here. It’s not easy. Both Ferguson and Kehler were big-time cheerleaders and didn’t let their mood affect this thing; they were both behind Munson. He’d paid his dues, got his opportunity and he’s running with it right now. You’ve got to play the hot hand.”
As for the other big storyline of the night, Brady Shaw had two goals. He has three goals and six points in two games since returning from Cleveland of the American Hockey League.
“I wanted to come back and be a difference maker,” said Shaw, who watched some of the Komets’ games while he was with the Monsters. “But I believe the team as a whole is just playing more of a complete game – way better defensively; better checking through the neutral zone; and just getting pucks in deep and working hard to get it back and create scoring chances.”
Added Munson: “It’s nice to get (Shaw) back. He’s been sensational in the locker room because he brings a ton of energy and a lot of different elements of the game that we all feed off of.”
The Komets’ power play has also been terrific the last two games, going 3 for 5 Friday and 2 for 2 Saturday, and the team has played much better defensively.
The Komets (17-12-5) scored on their first two shots Saturday: Alan Lyszczarczyk fished the puck out from behind the net and snapped it in from off the right post 44 seconds into the first period; and Matthew Boudens carried the puck in from the blue line and sniped a shot from the right circle at 4:26.
Kalamazoo (12-17-3) then pulled its starting goalie, Jake Kielly, in favor of Jake Hildebrand, who finished with 28 saves on 31 shots.
Munson allowed a breakaway goal at 7:15 to Matheson Iacopelli, who was set up by Ben Wilson’s steal at the Kalamazoo blue line, and Justin Kovacs tied it at the end of a 3-on-2 rush at 14:06.
While on a power play, the Komets regained their lead at 17:08, when captain A.J. Jenks redirected a blue-line shot from Jason Binkley. And Iacopelli tied it at 3 with a slapshot from the left circle at 16:57 of the second period.
“I thought the second period was a real bad one for us, but that’s why you play 60 minutes of hockey,” Boudreau said. “Collectively, as a group, we’re at our best when everybody’s playing together and everybody’s buying in. There were portions where everybody wasn’t buying in, but a little kick in the behind and we came out (for the third period) and played the right way, scored three goals, and we took away the two points. It was a real positive way to end the game.”
Shaw put Fort Wayne up with a 30-foot shot during a power-play goal 48 seconds into the third period, and he netted a goal off a rebound for a 5-3 lead at 15:59. Taylor Ross added an empty net goal.