Wings Event Center is notorious for the puck taking funny bounces throughout its 47-year history. But this took it to a new level, one that dealt the Komets a 5-4 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings on Wednesday night in front of 1,704 fans in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Wings' Logan Lambdin netted the winning goal into an open net with 52 seconds remaining, after teammate Alex DeBrincat had dumped the puck in and it unexpectedly popped from the corner to the front of the net. Fort Wayne's goaltender, Liam Hughes, had gone behind the goal to receive a puck that never arrived.
“It's just a terrible way to end a really good hockey game,” said coach Ben Boudreau, whose defending-champion Komets (17-10-4) are on a 1-3-1 slide. “I thought we deserved a lot more. Our guys played great, it just didn't show up on the scoresheet as far as the result we wanted. So it's tough because those (types of losses) are a little more disappointing than the others because you feel like you deserved a better fate.”
Hughes stopped 19 of 24 shots and Matt Alvaro scored twice, including a remarkable goal as the buzzer blared signaling the end of the second period. Alvaro netted a slap shot from the left circle, after Tyler Busch won him a faceoff with only 1.2 seconds remaining on the clock.
“It's just how we drew it up,” Fort Wayne's Marcus McIvor said. “The boys executed well and we were fortunate to have enough time to get it in. (Matt) Murphy had skated hard (to get the icing) and make sure we had enough time, Buschy won the faceoff cleanly and Alvaro had a great shot.”
Trevor Gorsuch stopped 31 of 35 shots for the Wings (17-12-0), who are on a 6-2-0 run and four points back of Fort Wayne for third place in the Central Division.
The post-game focus was on the final, brutal goal. The DeBrincat rim of the puck appeared to ricochet off a seam for a door that had come ajar during the first period from a check by the Komets' Connor Jones.
“It's just one of those unfortunate bounces,” McIvor said. “I mean, the boys really battled hard, and I thought we played really well. We thought we played well enough to earn a win, but sometimes the hockey gods give you some unfortunate bounces and they capitalized on it.”
The Komets had trailed by two goals, including a weird one by the Wings' Cody Corbett, who swiveled from the blue line and sent a shot off the skate of Murphy and past Hughes to make it 2-1 at 18:02 of the first period. Greg Mauldin made it 3-1 by intercepting an Oliver Cooper pass in the Fort Wayne zone.
Both teams had short-handed, breakaway goals in the first period – by Busch and Kalamazoo's Kyle Blaney – and the Komets' Anthony Petruzzelli made it 4-3 by redirecting a Shawn Boudrias pass 6:05 into the third period.
Greg Betzold tied it from the right circle 10:35 into the third period.
Notes: Goalie Samuel Harvey was selected to represent the Komets at Monday's ECHL All-Star Classic, though he's currently in the American Hockey League with the San Jose Barracuda. The ECHL will announce this weekend any replacements.