Amplified Wednesday night were the notions that the Komets’ offense is dangerous, both at even strength and on the power play. The Komets defeated the Wichita Thunder 7-2 at Memorial Coliseum, paced by two goals apiece from Brady Shaw and Brett McKenzie.
For Shaw, it’s five goals in the last two games. McKenzie was called up to Chicago of the American Hockey League after the game.
“We just played a 60-minute game. It was pretty simple. We got the puck in deep, crashed the net and scored some goals,” McKenzie said.
(Video highlights are above.)
The Komets (31-23-8) have won 10 of their last 14 games. With 10 games left in the regular season, they remain nine points back of Toledo for second place in the Central Division, and six points up on fourth-place Indy.
The Komets play host Friday to Toledo, which Wednesday became the ECHL’s first team to play in front of an empty home arena because of the coronavirus, after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine directed sporting events to be closed to fans.
The ECHL has not said yet if there are any plans to close other games to fans.
The Komets, who also got goals from Drake Rymsha, Shawn Szydlowski and Mason Bergh, scored on 4 of 7 power plays. Wichita (24-30-8), which was 0 for 5 on power plays, got goals from Ostap Safin and Peter Crinella.
Fort Wayne goaltender Stefanos Lekkas stopped 32 of 34 shots in his professional debut out of the University of Vermont. His night included stopping Beau Starrett by poking the puck from him on a breakaway. Lekkas also had a big save on Spencer Dorowicz that set up Rymsha to go the length of the ice and score on a 40-foot shot.
“You want to put (Lekkas) in a position where he doesn’t have a ton of pressure,” said coach Ben Boudreau, who commended the other Fort Wayne goalies, Cole Kehler and Dylan Ferguson, for being supportive of a third goalie on the roster.
“It’s a Wednesday night game against an out-of-conference team. There’s no rivalry. There’s no (Hall of Fame) induction ceremonies or anything like that. I think the real test will be against a big team with a lot of firepower that we know we’re going to have defend here pretty hard. To tell you the truth, those were the expectations (of Lekkas), to be pretty honest, and anything less than what he gave us tonight would have been less of what we expected.”
The Komets played two men short of a full 18-player lineup because of injuries and illness. They were without Shawn St-Amant, Brad Morrison, Chase Stewart and Olivier Galipeau. They had only five defensemen, including Matthew Boudens, who has dropped back from forward the past three games.
“For sure, we’ve got to be smarter and more defensive with a short lineup, but the offense was fine today,” McKenzie said.
The Komets would like to take the attention to detail needed when you’re playing short like Wednesday and apply it to games in which they have a full lineup.
“It’s pretty easy to look over and say, ‘OK, don’t worry, Shawsy is going to score at the rate he’s going, or (McKenzie) or St-Amant'. It’s easy for that mental identity to slip into your head,” Boudreau said. “But if you’re the guy playing in the right direction, or doing the little things, that is going to rub off on the other guys. It’s important to lead by example, instead of waiting for somebody else to do it. As soon as you’re doing it, it inspires other guys on the bench.”
OTHER NOTES …
• Boudreau on the leaders, such as A.J. Jenks, Anthony Petruzzelli, Szydlowski and Shaw: “We’ve got a lot of individual meetings all the time. We talk about things as a group. And we’ve got great leaders. When you’ve got great leaders, it’s an extension of your coaching staff and you can trust them to reiterate your message to the younger guys. … Anything you say, you know they’re echoing your thoughts and sentiments in the (locker) room. All year, they’ve been great and making sure we’re all buckled in and ready to go. The focus was there.”
• Asked about the possibility of playing in an arena with no fans, Boudreau said: “It would be weird, to be honest, especially in Fort Wayne. It would be very weird. I don’t know how else to say that. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. It’s obviously a global pandemic … and you know it’s on your doorstep. … It’s scary, there’s no doubt about that. There’s fear of the unknown and people are panicking. I hopefully trust the people in power that they know what they’re going, and I’m going to listen to what’s best for the health and safety of the individuals on our team, our fans, our employees and everything like that. At the end of the day, it’s just a game and there’s nothing more important than the health of everyone involved with these games.”
• Did the Will Petschenig controversy, in which he alleged Monday his signature was used on an injured reserve form without his knowledge, have an impact in the game? “I thought it was a big victory, not only for us but the whole organization. They played the right way and I think they honored this team and it’s past. Especially with all this stuff going on in the media recently, we made sure we played for the team,” Boudreau said.
• McKenzie on Boudens as a defenseman: “He’s playing pretty well. Let’s keep him there for now.”
• 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.