The Journal Gazette
Saturday, February 20, 2021 1:00 am

Komets 4 Wheeling 1

K's win home opener

Goal on 1st shot of game helps set tone

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

It had been 345 days since the Komets had played at Memorial Coliseum.

And their home opener, which came about two months after the other 13 teams competing in this ECHL season had theirs, culminated with a 4-1 victory Friday night over the Wheeling Nailers.

“I can't single out anybody because I felt every single person pulled their weight,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “You know, our motto before the game was '19, 60 and 2.' We knew it was going to take 19 guys 60 minutes to get the two points. I thought we played every single minute of that game tonight.”

The Komets are playing a 50-game season, 22 fewer games than the other ECHL teams because of their late start, and they'll face the Nailers 19 times. So far, the Komets (1-1-2) are 1-0-2 against Wheeling (5-10-4).

“We just eliminated the simple, correctable mistakes, I guess you could say,” said Justin Vaive, who scored a power-play goal for the Komets. “We had focused on those on video over the last day or two. We knew we had better in us and just wanted to shore up those little things and, ultimately, that will lead to success.”

An announced crowd of 2,943 attended the game, and that's considered a sellout this season amid the pandemic-related capacity restrictions. It was the first of three games in three days between the teams.

The Komets scored on the game's first shot, defenseman Mathieu Brodeur snapping a shot from the left circle that slipped through a crowd of defenders and inside the far post.

During a power play at 6:10, Vaive scored by camping out in front of the net and redirecting an Olivier Galipeau shot from the blue line.

Zach Pochiro made it 3-0 by one-timing Matt Murphy's pass from behind the net 4:26 into the third period.

Anthony Petruzzelli made it 4-0 by skating in alone from the boards and snapping the puck into the far side of the net at 7:58.

Stefanos Lekkas (1-1-1) stopped 18 of 19 shots for Fort Wayne.

Wheeling's François Brassard (2-2-1) turned away 22 of 26 shots before he was replaced by Hayden Hawkey, who stopped all eight he faced in relief.

“I think I'd been a little hard, maybe too critical, on our goalies,” Boudreau said. “I really point out Stef's work because he's the backbone of our team. He was phenomenal and gave everybody else a lot of confidence so we could be aggressive. If we made a mistake, he was going to be there to bail us out.”

Note: The Komets' roster was bolstered earlier in the day by the additions of forwards Spencer Smallman and Jason Cotton, who are on NHL contracts with the Carolina Hurricanes and had been with Chicago of the American Hockey League.

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