Goaltender Trevor Gorsuch impressed in his Komets debut, stopping 20 of 21 shots, including a bevy of acrobatic saves. Anthony Petruzzelli had a big night, fighting Joshua Winquist and scoring the game-winner, as the Komets defeated the Wheeling Nailers 3-1 on Friday at Memorial Coliseum.
But rookie Oliver Cooper may have had the most pivotal play. At the end of a third-period shift that saw him doling out hits, he drove Matt Miller into the boards behind the Wheeling net. That freed Cooper, in just his eighth game out of the University of New Brunswick, to send the puck to Petruzzelli, who was all alone in front, and he scored his decisive goal at 5:18.
“(Cooper's) energy on the forecheck was pretty infectious,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “It was twice (on that shift): He had a big hit on the first forecheck and we got it back. And we dumped it in and we managed the puck well. He absolutely separated his man from the puck and made a great pass out to Petruzzelli. That's crucial when he can show up and have an impact like that at the right time. It was unbelievable, not to mention he was spectacular on the penalty kill as well.”
Defenseman Mathieu Brodeur netted a blue-line shot at 8:51 to finish the scoring, as Fort Wayne (21-9-4) improved to 3-2-0 in its six-game set with the Nailers (17-27-6).
Fort Wayne has won 20 of the last 23 games between the teams at the Coliseum, including 7 of 9 this season.
Wheeling's Shane Starrett stopped 25 of 28 shots.
Gorsuch, signed Thursday, had to come up big on his first save, stopping Lawton Courtnall at the end of a breakaway 2:19 into the first period.
Wheeling's Cody Sylvester was in the penalty box for cross-checking – he drove Nick Boka face-first into the boards – and it set up the game's first goal: Alan Lyszczarczyk wristed in a 35-foot shot at 10:37.
The Nailers' Brendan Harris tied it by speeding around Randy Gazzola and chipping the puck high on Gorsuch at 2:44 of the second period. But Gorsuch recovered and foiled Winquist from point-blank range at 3:55 and Matt Alfaro on a breakaway at 6:45.
Soon after, Petruzzelli fought Winquist.
“When Petruzzelli's fighting, it's because he cares. And it's because he wants to win, his competitive side really comes out,” Boudreau said. “It was great, game-winner, big fight. All the details were there for him. And we really leaned on him tonight as one of the veteran leaders in this group. ... I thought that the way he played was, 'Watch me, how I play.' Everybody else was following suit. He led by example on the ice. For him, I thought it was one of his best games all season he played for us.”
Notes: The Komets have added a home game 7:30 p.m. May 12, against an opponent yet to be determined. ... Konstantin Shafranov, who won three championships as a player with the Komets and was an assistant coach for 21/2 seasons, has won another title – with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Shafranov, 52, is an assistant coach to former NHL coach Bob Hartley.