Komets coach Ben Boudreau said what most everyone at Memorial Coliseum was probably thinking Friday night: The Toledo Walleye is in the Komets’ heads.
Toledo has won all eight meetings between the teams, including this 5-1 victory in front of 7,970 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
This probably isn't good news, considering that, but five of the Komets’ remaining 18 regular-season games are against the Walleye.
“We played a good team over there, but I think it’s in our head right now and until we can conquer (them), they’re going to be in our head,” Boudreau said. “We thought we played a great game and their goalie stole the show. It should have been 10-4 (Komets), in my opinion.”
Max Gottlieb had Fort Wayne’s lone goal, on a 50-foot shot during a third-period power play, as Billy Christopoulos made 45 saves for second-place Toledo (30-15-5).
(Video highlights of the game are above.)
Dylan Ferguson stopped 14 of 18 shots through two periods and Cole Kehler stopped 9 of 10 in the third period for Fort Wayne (25-21-8), which is clinging to the third of four playoff spots in the Central Division.
“We dominated 55 minutes and it’s 5-1, so you’re left scratching your head. How did we play so good and we’re looking up (at the scoreboard) and it’s not even close?” said Boudreau, whose team is 0-6-2 against the Walleye. “To be honest, Billy Christopoulos stole the show tonight. He was phenomenal and he’s been the difference every single time, the last four games we’ve played him.
“It’s scary because we’re overpowering them, dominating them, (getting) scoring chances. We’re doing everything we possibly can and, next thing you know, it’s one 5-minute stretch and they score three goals. I liked the way our team played.”
Shawn St-Amant was back in the Fort Wayne lineup for the first time since Dec. 21. He’d missed 26 games, not including the ECHL All-Star Classic for which was chosen to participate, because of an upper-body injury.
It was the first of the two “Pink the Rink” nights – the other is 7:30 p.m. today against the Indy Fuel – in which the Komets and Vera Bradley Foundation are raising money for the fight against breast cancer. The Komets’ pink jerseys will be auctioned off and specially wrapped pucks are being sold to aid the charitable endeavor.
The Komets held the Walleye without a shot during the first 12:48. The scoreless first period saw Ferguson thwart Josh Kestner on a breakaway. Kestner atoned with a goal to make it 1-0 at 5:05 of the second period, when he blasted the puck into an open net after Shane Berschbach’s shot had sailed wide and caromed off the boards behind the Fort Wayne net.
Fort Wayne’s lax play with the puck behind its own net set up Toledo’s Gregor MacLeod for a goal from just outside the crease at 14:08. Teammate Kyle Bonis scored on the next shot, 41 seconds later, on a one-timer from the left circle.
T.J. Hensick made it 4-0 by sneaking behind the defense, reeling in a pass from MacLeod and flicking a shot over Ferguson at 18:42.
In the third period, Fort Wayne’s Mason Bergh fought Nolan Gluchowski, who got a penalty for instigating the fisticuffs. And Kestner tacked on a late goal for Toledo.
• Personally, I don’t get too geeked about shot totals, even if the Komets tied a season high. They need to get more traffic and make things more difficult for Christopoulos, who is always well positioned and controls his rebounds well. The Komets need more dirty goals, more quality scoring chances and to not fired it into the goalie's chest.
• What it really came down to was, again, mistakes in Fort Wayne’s own zone. The turnovers continue to dog Fort Wayne when it doesn’t concentrate in the dangerous areas. “It’s a lack of execution,” Boudreau said. “One’s off a faceoff and it’s a turnover. Our biggest thing that we talked about was protecting the front of the house, the front of the slot, right in front. First goal, came from right in front. Second one, it’s a faceoff play that we don’t execute and, boom, they throw it out to the slot. Third one, we go chasing in the corner and we peel away from the slot. Fourth one was a bad change, a breakaway, and the fifth one was an odd-man rush and we didn’t give up many today.”
• Just what the Komets needed, more injuries, but they got them: Brett McKenzie, Mason Bergh, Alan Lyszczarczyk and Stephen Baylis all were hurt Friday.
• The Komets have worn at least four different uniforms against the Walleye this season. Maybe they should go rogue with purple and green or something.
• I liked what the Komets were trying to do in the first period in playing a more grind-it-out game. That’s the key to success against Toledo; open-wheel hockey is just going to lead to the things the Walleye does well, namely pouncing on mistakes and transitioning well.
• Bruce Boudreau, Ben’s father, who was recently fired as coach of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, was in attendance.
• Before the game, the Komets were sent defenseman Brayden Pachal by the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, who called up forward Matthew Boudens.
• Defenseman Adam Henry, who was signed Wednesday, made his Fort Wayne debut.
• Kyle Haas served the first game of his two-game ECHL suspension for a fight with Kalamazoo’s Ben Wilson after the Komets’ 5-4 victory Wednesday.
• The Komets haven’t been shutout on home ice since Feb. 24, 2013, their first season in the ECHL, when Wheeling’s Peter Delmas stopped 44 shots in a 1-0 victory.