Walk into the Komets’ locker room these days and you’ll see the players clutching everything from crutches to bandages to tissue paper. While they’re not in the business of making excuses, the injuries and illnesses may be taking a toll.
The Komets managed to salvage a point for the standings tonight, despite not being able to use injured players Shawn St-Amant, Brad Morrison, Matthew Boudens, Will Petchenig, Brad Ross or Dylan Ferguson. Tack on to that sicknesses and leading-scorer Brady Shaw being called to the American Hockey League, and maybe the 3-2 overtime loss to the division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones isn’t all that bad.
The game was ugly, sure, but it kept the Komets one point ahead of the Toledo Walleye for second place in the division.
“We’ve been talking about the next-man-up mentality, so everyone steps in and knows how to play each role,” said Anthony Petruzzelli, whose Komets re-signed Connor Sanvido before the game.
The Komets’ offense, usually among the best in the ECHL, mustered only 10 shots through the first two periods. But the shot disadvantage ended up only being 32-27 and A.J. Jenks forced overtime with a one-timer 13:38 into the third period, after Shawn Szydlowski set him up from behind the net.
Jenks' slashing penalty in overtime set up Cincinnati’s Kurt Gosselin for the power-play winner on a shot from the right circle, spoiling a fine performance by goaltender Patrick Munson, third on Fort Wayne’s depth chart.
“It was a grind. It was a big-time grind,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “We’re so depleted, physically and mentally, it’s tough. The thing that nobody sees is the sickness that everybody is fighting, including myself. A lot of guys are battling through not feeling well. But you’ve got to tip your hat; things weren’t going right for 40 minutes … and we still found a way to get a point against the hottest team in the league.
“I’m real proud of the guys. Obviously, we’d loved to have found a way to kill that (power play), but at the end of the day, I’d rather have one point than none.”
The Komets (15-9-4) head into the Christmas break on a 0-2-2 streak. They play host to the Brampton Beast 8 p.m. Friday.
Cincinnati (19-6-4), which is on a 10-1-3 run, scored on 2 of 8 power plays. Fort Wayne was 0 for 3.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of back and forth tonight. It seemed, at times, like they controlled a lot of the play and we sat in there and battled, held our ground,” Petruzzelli said. “(Munson) made a lot of big saves for us and that helped a lot. But it was definitely a slower, more Xs and Os, kind of game.”
In front of a crowd of 7,508, the Komets donned special “PAW Patrol” jerseys, as part of an ECHL-wide partnership with Nickelodeon, and they were auctioned off to benefit charities chosen by the Fort Wayne Police and Fire Departments.
The Cyclones’ John Witala opened the scoring by hustling past the defense and flicking a shot from the left circle 4:36 into the first period, on Cincinnati’s third shot of the game.
Just as the period, which took a whopping 40 minutes to play, had slowed almost to halt because the goalies continually covered the puck, the puck kept leaving the playing area and the linesmen kept taking their time on faceoffs, Fort Wayne’s Brett McKenzie scored off a one-timer at 8:20. The goal was set up by Petruzzelli, who intercepted a pass along the boards and then fed McKenzie a pass from down low.
The Komets had only six shots on goal through the first 00:20 and the Cyclones had a 2-1 lead, thanks to Ben Johnson’s one-timer while his team enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play 3:57 into the second period.
Fort Wayne’s Kyle Haas fought Cincinnati’s Matthew Spencer at 7:16 (video is above).
Shortly thereafter, Fort Wayne’s Shaquille Merasty was thwarted at the end of a 2-on-0 rush by goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
The Komets’ Taylor Ross drew a penalty shot 6:46 into the third period, after he’d been hooked from behind during a breakaway, but he failed to convert. It was Fort Wayne’s second penalty shot of the season; Mason Bergh was stopped by Cincinnati’s Sean Romeo on Nov. 6.
Jenks, who has scored in back-to-back games since returning from a five-game absence with a leg injury, made sure the Komets reached overtime for the second straight night.
Notes: Sanvido, who was the surprise player of training camp, had been scoreless in one previous regular-season game with Fort Wayne and had nine goals and 17 points in 18 games with Evansville of the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League. … The referee was Andrew Bruggeman.