There was a sequence midway into the third period that typified the Komets’ night: A Stephen Harper shot slipped between the goaltender’s legs but missed the net, then Will Graber got to the rebound and backhanded a shot that got past the netminder again before caroming off the far goalpost and out of harm’s way.
The Komets peppered the net with shots Saturday, including an unsuccessful Nick Jermain penalty shot with less than 3 minutes remaining, but they fell 2-1 to the league-worst Iowa Heartlanders in front of 6,068 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“I think it was one of the more complete games we’d played in a little while,” Graber said. “It was just one of those games where we couldn’t find the back of the net. It was definitely frustrating. I think, for the most part, we’re happy with how we played and you can’t be too unhappy when you outplay a team like that and end up with (almost) 50 shots. But it’s still frustrating to not find the back of the net and end up with more than one goal.”
Trevin Kozlowski stopped 48 of 49 shots for the expansion Heartlanders (5-11-3), who played one man short of a full 18-player lineup and responded to a 4-0 loss here Friday in which Jiri Patera had a 23-save shutout.
For defending-champion Fort Wayne (10-6-2), which is tied with Toledo (11-5-0) atop the Central Division, Bailey Brkin was in net Saturday and stopped 24 of 26 shots. The rookie previously had been with Quad City of the lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League, going 8-1-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.
The Komets have been ravaged by injuries, call-ups, positive COVID-19 tests and general illnesses, but they’re still getting plenty of scoring chances. What coach Ben Boudreau would like to see is more finishes from his second- and third-line forwards.
“We’re looking for help offensively (from them) right now because we keep relying on the top guys and they’re there almost every single night. But it’s our depth right now that just isn’t helping us out enough right now,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got guys with donuts and bagels here, game after game, and we need some guys to step up.
"It’s tough to ask Harper and Kellen (Jones) and Graber to score every single game and carry the bulk of it. So we need our depth, our second and third lines, contributing goals here.”
Harper had six chances to score from point-blank range but netted only one of them, 6:41 into the first period, after the Heartlanders coughed up the puck during a faceoff in their own zone.
Iowa’s Joe Widmar, a former Fort Wayne player, tied it with a shot from the left circle 8:49 into the second period just after an Iowa power play expired. That ended a string of 88:50 in which Fort Wayne hadn’t allowed a goal.
Adrien Beraldo got the winner by snapping a shot from the right circle into the top of the net 2:29 into the third period.
Notes: The referee was J.R. Stragar. … The Komets were without four players who were in the COVID-19 safety protocols – Connor Jones, Samuel Harvey, Chays Ruddy and Shawn Boudrias – along with assistant coach Olivier Legault and equipment manager Skylar Garver. … Matthew Barnaby and D.J. King were ill but had tested negative for COVID-19. … The Komets also played without Shawn Szydlowski (back) and Josh Owings, so they utilized seven defensemen and nine forwards, though Szydlowski could be activated this week. ... The Komets are off until their games this Friday and Saturday against the Kalamazoo Wings in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and they're hoping to get some bodies back before then. One reason is that the parent Vegas Golden Knights (of the NHL) and Henderson Silver Knights (of the AHL) are getting heathier. "We're hoping for a shot in the arm with some high offensive guys," Boudreau said. "These last five weeks that we've been through, we just haven't had enough offense to get us through. And peppering the net is great, but when you don't have the finish, it's it's tough to win games." Captain Matthew Boudens is with Henderson. Drake Rymsha is with Hershey of the AHL.