If there's one lesson the Komets have learned this season, it's probably this: You just don't know, amid a seemingly endless amounts of call-ups and assignments, how long any player will be here.
So the Komets want to take advantage when they've got their big guns. And they did exactly that Saturday, when defenseman Matt Murphy scored twice and forward Stephen Harper once in a 3-2 victory over the Wheeling Nailers in front of a crowd of 6,575 at Memorial Coliseum.
Murphy and Harper had been in the higher-level American Hockey League the day before – Murphy with Belleville and Harper with Chicago – and they helped solidify a makeshift Fort Wayne lineup.
“It was an instant shot in the arm. Those guys (Murphy and Harper) are absolute studs and you could see the impact that they had,” said coach Ben Boudreau, whose Komets (8-2-1) had scrapped to a 4-2 victory here Friday over the Kalamazoo Wings. “They scored all three of our goals and they came in and played a lot of minutes. They made a big difference and we're happy to have them.”
Fort Wayne's Samuel Harvey stopped 18 shots. Wheeling (5-6-0) got 30 saves from Alex D'Orio.
The Komets donned jerseys inspired by Jim Carrey's outfit in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and they're being auctioned online through noon today to benefit Humane Fort Wayne.
“This was only my second game of the season with the team, and my first one in a few weeks,” Murphy said. “Even with guys up in the AHL like (Matthew) Boudens and (Drake) Rymsha, I'm really impressed with this group of guys. It was a really good group effort, we battled right to the end, and I thought it was a really good performance by everybody.”
The Komets scored twice on delayed penalties, but in very different ways.
Murphy made it a 1-0 lead 9:32 into the first period, after Kellen Jones fed him a crossing pass, and it came on the heels of Fort Wayne spending 45 seconds with a 6-on-5 advantage and in full possession of the puck in the offensive zone.
“It's not really something you practice, but it's one of those things you've got to recognize. You don't want to just throw the puck away. You've got more guys out there than they do and you want to play the possession game,” Murphy said.
“You want to hold on the puck and look for a good pass, an open guy kind of thing, instead of just throwing it at the net and getting rid of it. I thought we did a good job. I don't know if it was Kellen or Connor (Jones), I'm still having a hard time distinguishing the twins, but I think it was Kellen and he made an unbelievable pass to me.”
Murphy's second goal also came with a delayed penalty, for a 2-1 lead 6:58 into the second period, after a strange sequence of events set him up to split the defense. A faceoff between Connor Jones and Wheeling's Nick Hutchison had been repeatedly delayed as they both tried to go in early, then just after the puck was dropped Hutchison cross-checked Connor Jones to the ice, and Marcus McIvor sent an up-ice pass to Murphy for the goal.
Harper made it 3-1 off the rebound of a Will Graber shot.