The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 22, 2022 10:20 pm

Graber's 2 quick goals, Culina's saves, lead K's to 4-0 victory

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Will Graber scored twice within 11 seconds – including one on a penalty shot – and the Komets defeated the Cincinnati Cyclones 4-0 in front of a crowd of 7,121 tonight at Memorial Coliseum.

Rookie Fort Wayne goaltender Mario Culina, who made his fourth straight start, stopped all 29 shots he faced, including an early save against Lincoln Griffin off a rebound that set the tone for Fort Wayne’s big first period.

Cincinnati’s Brendan Bonello, also a rookie, stopped 8 of 11 before he was replaced in the second period. His replacement, Sean Bonar, thwarted 20 of 21 shots as the Cyclones lost their fourth straight game.

It took perfect execution of a faceoff in their own end to set up the Komets for their first goal, by Graber, 7:20 into the first period. Graber won the draw back to Darien Kielb, who fed Shawn Szydlowski, who set up Shawn Boudrias along the boards, and his backhand pass put Graber alone in front of the net for a 1-0 lead.

After the ensuing faceoff, Graber split the defense but was obstructed on the breakaway by Cincinnati’s Scott Kirton and Brandon Yeamans, setting up a penalty shot on which Graber slowed to almost a crawl and snapped a shot above the goalie’s glove.

Graber scoring twice within only 11 seconds, amazingly, wasn’t a franchise record – Garrett Meurs had goals four seconds apart in 2016 at the Coliseum. Graber was the first Komets player to score on a penalty shot since Jamie Schaafsma in 2018.

Boudrias skated out from the behind the Cincinnati net and smacked the rebound of his own backhand shot underneath Bonello for a 3-0 lead 3:30 into the second period. Kielb beat Bonar, who played a game this season for Fort Wayne, with a shot from the blue line at 12:23.

For Cincinnati (20-15-1, .569 winning percentage), Jesse Schultz got a major penalty and a game misconduct for spearing Graber in the groin during the third period, but the Komets were unable to score on the ensuing 5-minute power play.

Cincinnati’s Jack Van Boeckel also got a game misconduct for leaving the bench to get involved in a scrap at 15:52, but Fort Wayne couldn’t score on the 3-minute power play it set up.

The Komets (19-12-4, .600) had the previous five days off, following a 5-2 victory Jan. 16 over the Kalamazoo Wings at the Coliseum, and that was their third-longest break of the season. The Komets had six-day breaks in October and late December, and this rest came at a great time as the Komets were in a 2-5-1 slide; had played eight games in 12 nights; and needed to find a new goalie, which they did by getting Zachary Bouthillier from the Maine Mariners for forward Nick Jermain on Thursday.

After Sunday’s game against the Toledo Walleye in Toledo, Ohio, the first of six consecutive road games, the Komets will have another five-day break – their final one of the season. The Walleye (23-8-2, .727) lead the Central Division and the Komets are second, their position helped this week by the ECHL’s decision to determine standings by winning percentages, instead of points, because teams have lost games to COVID-19 protocols.

Notes: The referee was J.R. Strager. … It would have been late Komets broadcaster Bob Chase’s 96th birthday. He died in 2016. … Fort Wayne is 4-2-1 against Cincinnati this season. … Szydlowski got the 300th regular-season assist of his career with the Komets.


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