TOLEDO, Ohio – The Komets’ offense was stifled for the first time this season, at least in terms of scoring goals. They peppered the net with 40 shots Sunday but only Shawn St-Amant scored, as Toledo Walleye netminder Pat Nagle was terrific in a 3-1 victory over Fort Wayne at the Huntington Center.
It’s the first time this season the Komets (5-3-1) have been held below three goals this season. Not helping matters were bad penalties that allowed the Walleye (5-1-1) to get all its goals on power plays.
“We were pretty dominating, I think, on offense,” said St-Amant, who cut the Toledo lead to 2-1 when he stickhandled around former NHL defenseman Steve Oleksy and chipped the puck past Nagle 1:41 into the third period.
“We got pucks at the net and their goalie had a good game. We tried our best to get at the pucks and get the rebounds, but at the end of the day they got the win. But I’m not scared of them.”
With Max Gottlieb serving a delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck out of play, Toledo cemented the victory with a Brett Boeing goal off a rebound at 10:02. It came just seconds after Fort Wayne’s Matthew Villalta had the save of the season thus far, stopping an Abbot Girduckis redirection that seemed destined for the back of the net.
“I can’t pick any part of the game I didn’t like except three (power-play goals),” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “They took advantage of the special teams. At the end of the day, I thought Nagle was the difference in net. I loved the way we competed at the back end of three (games in three days). We had a ton of scoring chances. But you have a goalie who steals you a game. To be a good team, you need somebody in net to do that every once in awhile.”
(Video highlights are above.)
The Komets came into the game as the highest-scoring team in the ECHL with 4.63 goals per game and they ranked fourth in shots with 35.6 per game.
But Fort Wayne fell to 0-2-0 this season against the Walleye, which ousted Fort Wayne from the first round of the playoffs last season, setting off the tumultuous offseason in which the Komets fired coach Gary Graham, hired Ben Boudreau and revamped their roster.
One of the pivotal pieces of that was the signing of A.J. Jenks, who played the last five seasons with the Walleye, which lost to the Newfoundland Growlers in the Kelly Cup finals last season. This was Jenks’ first game back at the Huntington Center and he got a warm reception from the 6,657 fans, who applauded him during an early game stoppage.
But two Jenks penalties set up the Walleye for its first two goals.
With Jenks in the penalty box for tripping, Toledo’s Troy Loggins netted a shot from the point at 14:46 of the first period. Another Jenks penalty, for hooking, set up the Walleye for another power-play goal and a 2-0 lead 9:44 into the second period, when Girduckis redirected a T.J. Hensick pass from the far boards.
Villalta totaled 24 saves.
Toledo was 3 for 5 on power plays. Fort Wayne was 0 for 4.
Fort Wayne’s Mason Bergh saw his point-scoring streak end at eight games and his goal-scoring streak end at five games.
The game got off to an awkward start when one of the linesmen, Logan Bellgraph, was injured on a faceoff about 1 minute into the first period. He was butt-ended in the face by St-Amant while dropping the puck and, as he reacted to that, was upended by Toledo’s Alec McCrea. Bellgraph wasn’t able to return because of an apparent head injury, though he didn’t need to go to the hospital. The referee, Casey Terreri, and other linesman, Marc-Antoine Beaulieu, called the game alone until Chad Fuller, who had worked a game here Saturday, arrived 7:24 into the second period to take Bellgraph’s place.