The Komets have long been more apt to play a back-and-forth, run-and-gun style of hockey. Saturday night, they wanted to prove they could be more controlled and defensive.
They were. And it worked in a 2-1 victory over the Indy Fuel in front of 8,187 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“As a whole, we realize that when we play that back-and-forth way, it’s a crapshoot if you’re going to win,” goaltender Patrick Munson said. “When we you play that style, some nights the goalie is going to be hot and sometimes, we’re just not getting the bounces or vice-versa. To just consistently win, we have to play within our structure. When we get those opportunities, we’ve got the guys who can score.”
Munson was terrific with 30 saves, but he had help. Twice, the Fuel seemed destined for goals but hit the posts. His teammates were blocking lots of shots. And there was a play 1:13 into the first period on which the ECHL’s leading goal scorer, Indy’s Spencer Watson, snapped a shot through Munson that was on the goal line before Mason Bergh swiped it away.
“(Coach Ben Boudreau) challenged us to commit to play a full-defensive hockey game, and a full 60 (minutes),” Munson said. “The amount of shot blocks and Berghie saving my A-S-S on that first one right away, it’s just what it takes to win. We’ve got a lot of talent and when we play like that, we’re tough to beat.”
It was only the third Fort Wayne game since Dec. 6 in which three or fewer combined goals were scored. The Komets have won two of those games.
“That’s the way it works: If you get a little belief that if you commit to defending the right way, we can win. I thought it was great,” said Boudreau, whose team lost 5-1 to Toledo on Friday night. “We got six out of eight points and that’s a winning week. I know everyone wants to (beat) Toledo, and so do I and so does the team, but six out of eight is what you want. That (Indy) team is the one we’re going to be battle, along with Wheeling (to get into the playoffs), so I thought it was just a great job because it was a night-and-day difference from last night.”
Alan Lyszczarczyk’s goal for a 2-0 lead 1:33 into the second period was the difference, but it wasn’t without controversy. Shawn St-Amant had circled the Indy net and sent a pass to Lyszczarczyk, whose shot caromed off the skate of goalie Charles Williams near the goal line. Referee Sean MacFarlane didn’t signal for a goal but found convincing evidence, using video replay, that the puck had completely crossed the line.
(Video highlights above include the replay.)
Indy pressured Fort Wayne, which totaled 16 shots, with a 15-3 shot advantage in the third period, including a goal from Cliff Watson on a blue-line shot, and Munson even had to endure an equipment issue that forced him to wear Dylan Ferguson’s mask for a spell.
A perfectly executed play off a faceoff had given a 1-0 lead to the Komets, who got a cross-ice pass from Max Gottlieb to Brad Morrison for a left-circle shot that found the net, during a power play at 9:59 of the first period.
ALSO OF NOTE …
• Penalties continue to be an issue for Fort Wayne. Indy scored on 1 of 7 power plays and Fort Wayne was 1 for 2, as eight of the game’s 11 penalties were called on the Komets.
• The Komets (26-21-8), who have 17 games remaining in the regular season, lead Indy (27-24-3) by three points for the third of four playoff spots in the Central Division. The Komets, who have a 21-13-6 divisional record, are 6-1-1 against the Fuel and 0-6-2 against the second-place Walleye. The Komets play Tuesday at Kalamazoo, Michigan.
• On Lyszczarczyk’s goal, I know the replay makes it look like it was in, but I sure have a tough time, personally, seeing how that was 100% evidence of the puck being totally over the line.
• Here’s why people around the Komets love St-Amant: It’s not just that he gets a lot of points, it’s the energy in which he plays. That guy is very intense and goes full bore all the time.
• The Komets wore pink jerseys for the second straight night and they were auctioned off to benefit the Vera Bradley Foundation’s fight against breast cancer. Shawn Szydlowski’s sold for the most, $1,111, and Brady Shaw’s went for $1,010. A.J. Jenks’ sold for $1,005 and Munson’s for $1,000.
• Defenseman Brayden Pachal, who rejoined the Komets for Friday’s game, was called back to Chicago of the higher-level American Hockey League early Saturday. … Cole Kehler backed up Munson and Ferguson was scratched. … The Komets also were without Will Petschenig, Brett McKenzie, Matthew Boudens, who is with Chicago, and Kyle Haas, who has completed his two-game ECHL suspension for Wednesday’s postgame fight with Kalamazoo’s Ben Wilson. I was told McKenzie was ill after Friday’s game.