The Komets going through a stretch of 96 minutes, 59 seconds in which they didn’t score a goal – surprising. The Komets rallying from two goals down to beat the Kalamazoo Wings 7-4 on Saturday night – not surprising.
It was another banner night for Fort Wayne’s ballyhooed offense, which was paced by a Brady Shaw hat trick, and it finished the season series against the Wings with a 10-3-1 record.
“We have a lot of confidence. We have so much firepower in this room, we know that even if we get down by two, especially early, we can dig ourselves out of a hole,” said Shaw, whose Komets had lost 3-0 to division-leading Cincinnati on the road Friday. “Last night in Cincinnati, I don’t think we went about it the right way. Our attitudes were a little down, so tonight we put an onus on staying positive, knowing we could get the job done.”
Cincinnati’s Michael Houser got his second shutout in as many nights with a 1-0 victory Saturday over the Toledo Walleye. Fort Wayne, which has 11 games remaining in the regular season, trails Toledo by seven points for second place in the Central Division, though the Walleye has four games in hand. Fort Wayne’s lead over fourth-place Indy is at six points.
Against Kalamazoo, Brett McKenzie had five goals and 21 points in 12 games, including four assists Saturday. The line of Shaw, McKenzie and Shawn St-Amant combined for four goals and eight points.
(Video highlights from the game are above.)
“Playing with Mac and Monty, they make things pretty easy for me out there and we just want to keep it going,” said Shaw, who got the Komets’ rally going by stick-handling through the slot to cut Kalamazoo’s lead to 2-1 at 7:10 of the second period.
Shaw also scored when a McKenzie pass from the opposite corner caromed off him and into the net to give Fort Wayne a 3-2 lead. Shaw made it 5-3 with a 40-foot shot after McKenzie won a third-period faceoff.
“You can go back and quote me on how many times we’ve been resilient. We just haven’t given up. That’s the biggest thing – we’ve always got a belief, no matter what,” said coach Ben Boudreau, whose Komets came into the night with the ECHL’s eighth-ranked ranked offense with 3.40 goals per game.
The Komets also got goals from Mason Bergh, Shawn Szydlowski and Alan Lyszczarczyk.
Kalamazoo got two goals from Garret Ross and one apiece from Justin Taylor and Tanner Sorenson.
A crowd of 9,279 was on hand at Memorial Coliseum to see former team captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Mike Emrick, NBC’s national TV play-by-play broadcaster for hockey, go into the Komets’ Hall of Fame. Schrock is a native of Fort Wayne and Emrick, who was mentored by late Komets broadcaster Bob Chase, is from La Fontaine.
The crowd not only got the excitement of the inductions and a comeback victory, but also of Fort Wayne’s Kyle Haas and Will Petschenig fighting, respectively, Ben Wilson and Zach Diamantoni.
“I thought what (the players) did tonight after the presentations and the speeches, they embodied everything there is about being a Komet,” Boudreau said. “That really struck a chord with me. The history is so extensive and so long, and everyone has to be so proud of that, but when you come to an organization you really have to understand what it means to be a Komet. Those speeches and the way they played with Haas and Petch fighting, those were big moments for us. I really loved the way they played in front of the crowd. It was a special night for the organization and they showed up in a big way.”
Dylan Ferguson stopped 27 shots for Fort Wayne (30-23-8). For Kalamazoo (23-28-8), Jake Hildebrand stopped 33 shots.
Other things of note …
• The Komets with hat tricks this season are Shaw, St-Amant and Anthony Petruzzelli.
• Fort Wayne and Kalamazoo were each 2 for 4 on power plays. During the season series, Fort Wayne scored on a ridiculous 22 of 57 power plays and the Wings scored on 11 of 61.
• With injuries to Chase Stewart and Olivier Galipeau, the Komets were short a defenseman and needed Matthew Boudens to play back there a second straight night. He was plus-2 Saturday. “He’s played every position. I wouldn’t even be hesitant to put him in the goal, to be honest with you,” Boudreau said. “He’s a Swiss Army Knife, utility man, and that was one of the biggest attractions to him. When we spoke to his (college) coach (from New Brunswick), Gardiner MacDougall, in the summer, he told us he can play first line, he’d accept a third-line role, he can play the power play but he’ll be good on the (penalty kill). Whatever the night, he’s the perfect tool to fit anywhere up and down your lineup.”
• The Komets, who play host to the Wichita Thunder on Wednesday, completed a stretch of 14 straight divisional games with a 9-5-0 record. “Anytime you’re going to go above .500, it’s great. Our biggest challenge is beating the top teams in this division,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think Cincinnati has dominated us like Toledo, but we got the proverbial monkey off our back (beating Toledo on Feb. 29) and we’re confident right now. That’s what you want. Even with … guys injured here and there, we find ways to keep responding. For us, it’s really encouraging for us to be playing good quality hockey going into the playoffs, instead of the other way around.”
• It may seem spotty starts are Fort Wayne’s problem, but they’ve actually outscored opponents 70-59 in first periods. In second periods, they’ve been outscored 85-72. In third periods, they’ve been outscored 66-61. That being said, they Komets have given up a handful of goals on the opposition’s first scoring opportunity of the game, including Saturday when Sorenson scored off his own rebound – the first two shots of the game.