The Komets were beleaguered – exhausted, trailing a well-rested team by two goals and running out of time in the third period on the road today – and another comeback just seemed unlikely.
But, again, the Komets found a way to win.
Stephen Harper sped into the Indy Fuel’s zone and snapped a shot from the left circle past goaltender Dan Bakala, cementing a 5-4 victory in 3-on-3 overtime at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
“The team is on Cloud Nine right now,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “The amount of emotion, knowing what we just accomplished, you could just see it come out of them in the dressing room. Three games in 44 hours in three different cities, we played a rested and a fresh team. And I go back to my statement earlier in the season: ‘Good teams find a way to win.’”
It helped that Anthony Nellis had two goals and two assists. But the Komets looked as if they weren’t going to win their third straight game after Indy’s Terry Broadhurst made it 4-2 with a power-play goal 8:27 into the third period. The Fuel scored on 3 of 4 power plays and added a short-handed goal.
Even after Fort Wayne’s Alan Lyszczarczyk scored by redirecting a Nellis shot at 10:16, and after Matt Murphy forced overtime with a 42-foot floater through a crowd at 19:39, it still seemed the Fuel had victory in its grasp with Ryan Zuhlsdorf shooting at an open net in overtime. But the puck caromed off the post and sat underneath goalie Robbie Beydoun for what seemed like an eternity before somehow popping out.
That set things up for Harper’s goal with 1:00 left in an overtime that had been very methodical, with the teams often sacrificing possession in the offensive zone to backtrack and reset plays. Fort Wayne had four of the six overtime shots.
“For sure, that win was huge for our confidence,” said Harper, whose Komets defeated Wheeling 3-1 on Friday and 6-2 on the road Saturday. “We really wanted to finish off the weekend. We hadn’t won three in a row in a weekend (since early March). Obviously, the boys were a bit tired there after getting in late, but we had the belief that we could do it and wins like that are huge for our group.”
League-leading Fort Wayne (23-9-4) improved to 10-3-1 against Indy (28-19-5). The Komets are 4-8-1 when trailing at the second intermission and three times have beaten the Fuel after trailing with less than 1:30 remaining in regulation time.
Boudreau praised the entire team, including veteran Shawn Szydlowski, whose hooking penalty led to a Jared Thomas goal and whose turnover had led to a Broadhurst short-handed goal for a 3-1 Fuel lead. Szydlowski set up Murphy’s tying goal and had a key backcheck to help prevent a goal in overtime.
“And then you had your young legs like (Harper) finding a way to get it going. He was double-shifting all game and playing through pain,” Boudreau said. “I thought everybody had a big impact tonight. And I thought our defense was great, taking away the rush opportunities.”
The Fuel came in with five days of rest because of three cancellations related to COVID-19 protocols with itself and the Florida Everblades. The Komets and Fuel play again 7:05 p.m. Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Beydoun, a rookie, stopped 24 of 28 shots, after he’d played for the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild on Saturday night and thwarted 25 of 27 shots in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Wolves.
Bakala stopped 27 of 32 shots.
The scoreless first period ended with a melee that included Fort Wayne’s Morgan Adams-Moisan fighting Indy’s Tommy Apap. Adams-Moisan got an extra penalty for roughing and that set up the Fuel for the game’s first goal, on a power play 1:49 into the second period, when Nick Hutchison was trying to send a pass across the crease but it ricocheted off Beydoun and into the net.
Nellis tied it at 7:06, sweeping in the rebound of a blue-line shot by Blake Siebenaler, who broke his stick on the attempt. The Fuel got Thomas’ goal for a 2-1 lead on a shot from the right circle that went above Beydoun’s outstretched glove at 11:46.
A Fort Wayne power play resulted in goals for both teams – Indy’s Broadhurst on a breakaway at 1:26 of the third period and Nellis on the rebound of a Marco Roy shot at 3:02 – and the Fuel led 3-2. Fort Wayne scored on 1 of 3 power plays.
Broadhurst made it 4-2 during a power play at 8:27, snapping a 35-foot shot past Beydoun.
Notes: Former Komets player and coach Ron Ullyot, who was hit by a car while riding a bicycle last month in Florida, continues to recover at home. He will have to wear a neck brace for about three months. … The Komets played without A.J. Jenks, Zach Pochiro (hand), Randy Gazzola, Connor Corcoran and goalies Trevor Gorsuch and Dylan Ferguson (hand). Louis-Philip Guindon backed up Beydoun.