It might have seemed it would be an uphill battle for the Komets. Injuries had left them two men short of a full 18-player lineup and they were trying out their new goalie, rookie Stefanos Lekkas.
But if the Komets have proved anything this season, it’s that they’re at their best when the odds seem stacked against them on the scoreboard or with their lineups.
Brady Shaw netted two goals – giving him five in the last two games – and Brett McKenzie scored twice, too. Lekkas impressed with 32 saves, including two at the end of breakaways, as the Komets defeated the Wichita Thunder 7-2 at Memorial Coliseum.
An announced crowd of 6,637 was on hand as the Komets won for the 10th time in their last 14 games. The Komets scored on 3 of 6 power plays and the Thunder was 0 for 5.
Lekkas, formerly of the University of Vermont, made his professional debut. He is the third goalie on the depth chart behind Cole Kehler and Dylan Ferguson.
The Komets played without Shawn St-Amant, Chase Stewart, Brad Morrison and Olivier Galipeau. They also only had four natural defensemen; forward Matthew Boudens skated back there a third consecutive game.
The scoreless first period saw Wichita outshoot Fort Wayne 16-15 and get the best save of the period, when Dylan Wells thwarted Drake Rymsha on a breakaway at 16:38.
The Komets opened the scoring on a Shaw shot from the top of the left circle, during a power play 2:21 into the second period, but the Thunder answered 40 seconds later when Ostap Safin polished off a 2-on-1 rush.
Wells kept it tied 54 seconds after that, thwarting a Stephen Baylis breakaway.
Lekkas matched suit with a big stop on Spencer Dorowicz’s shot from point-blank range at 5:57, setting up Fort Wayne’s Rymsha to go the length of the ice, split the defense and snap a 40-foot shot past Wells for a 2-1 Fort Wayne lead.
As the Komets tallied 14 of the period’s first 16 shots, they got goals from Shawn Szydlowski, on a shot from the left circle during a power play, and Mason Bergh, who chipped in a rebound for a 4-1 lead at 10:39.
A wild A.J. Jenks goal was waved off – he’d shot it from the blue line and it caromed off the boards, Wells’ leg and in – after a delayed offside. Soon, Lekkas stopped a breakaway by poking the puck from Beau Syarrett and Shaw netted his second of the night, with the Thunder on a power play, to make it 5-1 at 17:20.
McKenzie scored twice in the third period, one goal come off his skate.
Wells stopped 26 of 31 shots. His replacement in the third period, Mitch Gillam, stopped 11 of 13 shots.
Notes: The Toledo Walleye played host to the Cincinnati Cyclones with fans not allowed into the Huntington Center, following a directive from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s to bar fans from sports events. Toledo is the only ECHL team that has had to play in an empty building because of the coronavirus, and the Komets said plans are still for Friday’s game at the Coliseum, against the Walleye, to go on with spectators. The ECHL has made no announcement on contingency plans to limit exposure to the virus. … The referee was Jesse Gour. … Among Wichita’s scratches were former Komets player Jordan Sims, the son of former Fort Wayne player and coach Al Sims. … Wichita is coached by former Komets player Bruce Ramsay. His assistant, John Gurskis, also played for the Komets. … The Thunder is staying in a Fort Wayne hotel through Sunday’s game here, though it plays Friday at Indianapolis and Saturday at Toledo.