The reinforcements certainly helped – Matt Murphy scored twice and Stephen Harper once – as the Komets defeated the Wheeling Nailers 3-2 at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.
It came after the Komets ended a two-game winless streak by scrapping their way to a 4-2 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday night with a makeshift lineup.
The Komets are still missing about 40% of their optimal lineup because of call-ups, injuries and even a problem with an immigration work visa, but getting back Murphy and Harper made a big difference for Fort Wayne (8-2-1) on a night it twice scored with delayed penalties coming against the Nailers.
Fort Wayne’s Samuel Harvey stopped 18 of 20 shots. For Wheeling (5-6-0), Alex D’Orio stopped 30 of 33.
The Komets donned jerseys inspired by Jim Carrey’s outfit in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and they’re being auctioned off online to benefit Humane Fort Wayne, a shelter and adoption program. The Komets were supposed to wear the uniforms, with pants and socks to match the jerseys, in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic halted that season just before they were to debut. The auction for the uniforms, which have gotten much attention online, runs through noon Sunday.
The Komets had the game’s first seven shots and its first goal.
Murphy, in his first game back since being released by Belleville of the higher-level American Hockey League on Friday, opened the scoring 9:32 into the first period. The Komets had a 6-on-5 advantage, as a delayed penalty was coming against the Nailers, and Kellen Jones sent a cross-ice pass to the attacking Murphy for a shot that slipped inside the far post.
Murphy, a defenseman, had been scoreless in five games with Belleville. Harper, last season’s Playoff MVP en route to the Kelly Cup championship, was sent down Saturday after three scoreless outings with the Chicago Wolves.
Wheeling’s Tyler Drevitch tied it at 1 at 16:02 by redirecting Alex Stevens’ slapshot from the blue line.
Harvey thwarted a Nick Hutchison shot from point-blank range 1:02 into the second period. Harvey came in with a 3-0-0 record and led the ECHL in goals-against average (1.33) and save percentage (.969) with one shutout. He’d stopped 39 of 41 shots Friday, on the heels of No. 1 Jiri Patera getting called to Henderson of the AHL. The new backup, Sean Bonar, could play Sunday when the Komets finish off a string of three games in as many nights – a rarity for them all to be at the Coliseum – with the first game against the expansion Iowa Heartlanders.
Murphy’s second goal, for a 2-1 lead at 6:58, came after a weird 30 seconds. A faceoff between Fort Wayne’s Connor Jones and Wheeling’s Hutchison kept getting delayed as they both tried to go in early, then just after the puck was dropped Hutchison cross-checked Jones to the ice. Seconds later, Murphy split the defense and scored, with a delayed penalty coming on Hutchison.
Harper made it 3-1 by cutting to the net and batting the rebound of a Will Graber shot out of mid-air and past D’Orio at 19:45.
Wheeling’s Patrick Watling netted a goal six seconds into a power play, at 14:24, when he got to a rebound 20 feet from the net.
The Nailers thought they might have tied it at 15:15, when a 40-foot Dylan MacPherson shot caromed off the post and fell on the goal line. But referee Logan Gruhl, son of legendary Komets player Scott Gruhl, reviewed video replay and determined the puck didn’t cross the line.