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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Komets goalie Andrey Makarov, 20, is 12-7-2 and has played in 22 of the team’s 42 games this season.

Young K’s goalie shouldering load

– It may seem the Komets have put a lot on the shoulders of goalie Andrey Makarov, 20, who has played in 22 of their 42 games.

But he’s fine with it, and the Komets believe he can handle it.

“I’m used to playing a lot of games,” said Makarov, who is from Kazan, Russia. “Look at what I did with Saskatoon.”

That was play 115 games over two seasons in the Western Hockey League, going 66-38-7 between 2011 and 2013 and earning a three-year contract with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres that expires in 2015.

Makarov has not only been successful in North American hockey but also in international competition. At the 2012 Under-20 World Championships, he stopped 57 of 58 shots in a 1-0 loss to Sweden in the gold medal game.

“We didn’t win, but I played a pretty good game,” Makarov said.

And at the 2013 World Junior Championships, he helped Russia to the bronze medal by stopping 93.3 percent of the shots he faced in three games in Ufa, Russia.

“To play in front of the home crowd, it was an unbelievable feeling. Especially to beat Canada in the bronze medal game, it was an unbelievable experience,” Makarov said.

His role with the Komets wasn’t expected coming into the season. Fort Wayne started with John Muse, who was called up to Charlotte of the American Hockey League after one game, and Cody Reichard, who was traded after a lukewarm start.

Meanwhile, Makarov was sent down from Rochester of the AHL.

Makarov is 12-7-2 with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in the ECHL.

Ben Meisner is 5-2-2 with a 2.33 GAA and a .924 save percentage for the Komets (19-14-9), who are on a 4-1-1 surge heading into Friday’s game against the Kalamazoo Wings (23-16-4).

As the Komets see it, they have two No. 1 goalies in Makarov and Meisner, even if it was Makarov who guided the Komets through the rough patch early in the season before they got Meisner in a trade with Utah.

“It was a situation where Makarov is a kid who has always played a lot of games,” Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. “Look at last year, he was in 61 games in the WHL, and he played in all the international games. He’s used to it, and he’s been a gamer he whole career.”

Makarov’s age never even comes up.

“The No. 1 thing with Makarov is getting him into good habits, into good practice habits,” Graham said. “That’s the most important thing at this level. When the Sabres’ goalie coach comes in and works with him, that’s the thing they keep telling us is to keep working on him and getting him in good habits in practice, like getting on the ice early and staying on after, that type of thing.”

If there’s been any complaint with Makarov it’s been the number of rebounds he gives up.

“Probably my position in the net (needs) a little bit of work,” Makarov said. “(The Sabres) have tried to help me and teach me, show me what’s better for me.”