At Memorial Coliseum, the Komets are a more-than-respectable 5-1-1. On the road, they’ve faced more obstacles and are 4-4-1 – including Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Indy Fuel in front of 1,524 fans at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
The good news is that the defending-champion Komets play nine of their next 11 games at home beginning Friday and Saturday against the expansion Iowa Heartlanders, who won the only meeting between the teams so far, 5-1 at the Coliseum on Nov. 21.
The Komets remain decimated by injuries, call-ups and now positive COVID-19 tests. The Komets (9-5-2) played with eight defensemen – two more than normal – and eight forwards Wednesday, though that’s one more forward than they had for last Saturday’s 3-2 victory at Indianapolis.
“You can tell we’re not creating offense,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “It’s the fourth game in a row we’ve played with less than 10 forwards. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it’s starting to show on the scoreboard. Our power play is struggling, we’re not generating enough offense, and we’re asking a lot of our top guys to play a lot of tough minutes. It’s tough right now.
“But at the same time, when you are struggling and not scoring goals, you can’t pass up shots like we did in the second period. We had glorious opportunities to score and we passed on them for better opportunities that didn’t even end up with a shot on net, so that bit us in the rear end. When we do have opportunities, we have to make them count.”
Jiri Patera was in net Wednesday for the Komets – he stopped 25 of 28 shots – after Samuel Harvey tested positive for COVID-19.
Consequently, the Komets signed Fort Wayne-native Alex Zion, who has served as an emergency backup for the team multiple times dating to 2015. Help is on the way as the Komets called up goalie Bailey Brkin from Quad City of the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League. Brkin, a rookie, was 8-1-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage for Quad City.
Also out because they either tested positive for COVID-19 or were a close contact were forward Connor Jones, who had three goals and a team-leading 12 points in 15 games, forward Matthew Barnaby, defenseman Chays Ruddy, assistant coach Olivier Legault and equipment manager Skylar Garver.
But forward Shawn Boudrias, who had Fort Wayne’s lone goal, was back after missing six games with a groin injury and defenseman Blake Siebenaler had returned from Belleville of the higher-level American Hockey League.
For Indy (5-9-2), Cale Morris stopped 29 of 30 shots.
“We’ve got a lot of bodies that are capable here,” Fort Wayne forward Anthony Petruzzelli said. “Right now, we’ve just got to figure out a way to score. That’s on us as players. We’ve got to do the simple things like just shoot pucks. Eventually those things are going to start going in the net and that’ll make the difference in the end.”
The Komets outshot the Fuel 8-5 in the first period, but Morris made a bevy of acrobatic saves to keep them from scoring in the frame. Meanwhile, Indy’s Cedric Lacroix netted a shot from the left circle at 16:19. He was set up during the Fuel power play by Keoni Texeira, who split the defense before his pass, as Fort Wayne’s Will Graber served a slashing penalty.
Patera recovered with a slew of good stops, including one from point-blank range on a Seamus Malone shot 5:13 into the second period, but he was helpless to stop Chad Yetman at the end of a 3-on-1 rush at 9:22 and it was 2-0 Fuel.
Siebenaler fought Indy’s Riley McKay 2:05 into the third period. Boudrias scored for the Komets at 6:45, hammering in a shot after Marcus McIvor fed him from behind the Fuel net. Boudrias, a rookie, now has one goal and eight points in 10 games with Fort Wayne, after he had one assist in four games last season with Iowa of the AHL.
"He’s been really good for us throughout the entire year,” Boudreau said of Boudrias. “Him coming back off an injury, we needed him and he found a way to be productive. It was good to see him get the monkey off his back.”
Indy’s Spencer Watson answered at the end of a 3-on-2 rush at 12:11 and Lacroix scored into an empty net with 1 second remaining in the game.
Notes: The referee was John Lindner. … The Komets also played without Shawn Szydlowski (back), Oliver Cooper, Matthew Boudens (Henderson), Drake Rymsha (Hershey) and Aaron Huffnagle. … A second-period Kellen Jones power play was halted by an inadvertent whistle, when the Komets trailed 1-0. ... Fort Wayne was 0 for 4 on power plays. Indy was 1 for 2.