Stephen Harper had an eventful Saturday night for the Komets. He scored his first professional goal – in his second game – with a nifty wraparound for a one-goal lead in the second-period.
But he also was ejected in the third period for kneeing the Wheeling Nailers' Joshua Winquist. The ensuing power play set up Aaron Thow for the tying goal and the Nailers won 4-3 in overtime, in front of an announced crowd of 1,046 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Patrick McNally netted the winner on a shot from the right circle that went between goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon's legs, on the only shot on goal of the 3-on-3 overtime.
The Komets, who had no preseason games to prepare for the season, came out of the weekend 0-0-2 against a team that has jelled over 15 games.
“I think the boys are starting to come together and we started to work out the couple kinks we had (Friday),” said the Komets' Brandon Hawkins, who's scored twice this season against his former team. “We made solid efforts to be in the positive and we made good plays. There were a couple lapses, but all in all I think we were much better tonight.”
The Komets, who are the only ECHL team skating a 50-game season, next play 7 p.m. Wednesday at Indy. Wheeling, among the 13 teams playing 72 games, will be the opponent in the Komets' home opener 8 p.m. Friday at Memorial Coliseum.
Wheeling (5-8-4) got 18 saves from François Brassard. The Nailers scored on 1 of 7 power plays and Fort Wayne was 0 for 5, dropping it to 0 for 10 this season.
Guindon stopped 18 shots in his first pro game out of McGill University, one night after fellow rookie Stefanos Lekkas stopped 36 of 38 shots, and 2 of 3 shootout attempts, in a 3-2 loss at WesBanco Arena.
“Just being straight-up, honest, (Guindon) is going to need to be better and give our team a chance to win,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “I thought he made some great saves tonight, but there's at least three of those four goals that I want to see saved.”
Guindon was bested on a one-timer by Lawton Courtnall 4:51 into the game, after he'd received Brady Tomlak's pass from behind the net.
Hawkins answered with a rip from the right circle at 8:26. And a 3-on-2 Fort Wayne rush culminated with a Zach Pochiro goal for a 2-1 lead at 17:54, after he was set up by passes from Anthony Petruzzelli and Marco Roy.
Wheeling's Austin Fyten tied it at 2 by snapping a 40-footer past Guindon 1:43 into the second period, as Fort Wayne was on a power play.
“I think there was (improvement),” Boudreau said. “There were little things that we did really well when our legs were skating a little bit more tonight. So it was good to see some gradual improvement from game to game.”