Wings Event Center is notorious for the puck taking funny bounces throughout its 47-year history. But this took it to an epic level, one that dealt the Komets a 5-4 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings on Wednesday night in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Wings’ Logan Lambdin netted the winning goal into an open net with 52 seconds remaining, after teammate Alex DeBrincat had dumped the puck in and it unexpectedly popped from the corner to the front of the net. Fort Wayne’s goaltender, Liam Hughes, had gone behind the goal to receive a puck that never arrived.
DeBrincat’s rim of the puck appeared to change course from a seam along the boards, where there’s a door that had come ajar in the first period on a check by the Komets’ Connor Jones.
The final, befuddling goal was one of several wild occurrences in the game, the first of four in five nights in three cities for the Komets.
“It’s just a terrible way to end a really good hockey game,” said coach Ben Boudreau, whose defending-champion Komets (17-10-4) are on a 1-3-1 slide.
“I thought we deserved a lot more. Our guys played great, it just didn’t show up on the scoresheet as far as the result we wanted. So it’s tough because those (types of losses) are a little more disappointing than the others because you feel like you deserved a better fate.”
Hughes stopped 19 of 24 shots and Matt Alvaro scored twice, including a goal right as the second period expired. On the heels of an icing call against the Wings, Alvaro netted a slapshot from the left circle after Tyler Busch won him a faceoff with only 1.2 seconds remaining on the clock in front of 1,704 fans.
Referee Andrew Bruggeman used video review to determine the puck had gone in before the buzzer.
“It’s just how we drew it up,” Fort Wayne’s Marcus McIvor said. “The boys executed well and we were fortunate to have enough time to get it in. (Matt) Murphy had skated hard (to get the icing) and make sure we had enough time, Buschy won the faceoff cleanly and Alvaro had a great shot.”
Goalie Trevor Gorsuch stopped 31 of 35 shots for the Wings (17-12-0), who are on a 6-2-0 run and four points back of Fort Wayne for third place in the Central Division.
The postgame focus was on the final, brutal goal.
“It’s just one of those unfortunate bounces,” McIvor said. “I mean, the boys really battled hard and I thought we played really well. We thought we played well enough to earn a win, but sometimes the hockey gods give you some unfortunate bounces and they capitalized on it.”
The Komets had trailed by two goals, including a weird one by the Wings’ Cody Corbett, who swiveled from the blue line and sent a shot off the skate of Murphy and past Hughes to make it 2-1 at 18:02 of the first period.
Greg Mauldin made it 3-1 after intercepting an Oliver Cooper pass in the Fort Wayne zone. After two Alvaro goals, including one in which he tipped a Darien Kielb shot, Anthony Petruzzelli gave Fort Wayne a 4-3 lead by redirecting a Shawn Boudrias pass 6:05 into the third period.
Kalamazoo’s Greg Betzold tied it from the right circle at 10:35.
Both teams had short-handed, breakaway goals in the first period – by Busch and Kalamazoo’s Kyle Blaney.
“We don’t have any time to reflect on this,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got one day to rest and then three in three nights again. So we’re moving on.”
The Komets play host to the Indy Fuel 8 p.m. Friday at Memorial Coliseum, where it will be Martin Luther King Jr. night and the Komets will wear special jerseys that will be auctioned for charity.
Notes: Goaltender Samuel Harvey has been selected to represent the Komets at the ECHL All-Star Classic, though he’s currently in the higher-level American Hockey League with the San Jose Barracuda. The ECHL will announce this weekend any replacements; it’s not clear if another Komets would get another representative. Harvey, who was 8-1-2 with a 2.33 goals-against average, a .933 save percentage and one shutout as a rookie before he was called up Dec. 27, was selected by coaches, team captains, media-relations directors, broadcasters and reporters. The Classic will be 7:30 p.m. Monday in Jacksonville, Florida, and pit the ECHL All-Stars against the host Icemen. … The Komets’ Will Graber has now served three games of his four-game suspension for making physical contact with an official. … The Komets also played without Shawn Szydlowski, Kellen Jones and Matthew Barnaby (ankle/head), while Blake Siebenaler, Matthew Boudens and Drake Rymsha remained in the AHL. … Three times, the puck hit the scoreboard that overhangs the ice at Wings Event Center.