In what was easily their most important game of the season, the Komets played simply their best game of the season.
Despite all the injuries, using a group of players who had never before donned a Fort Wayne jersey, the Komets defeated the Florida Everblades 5-2 in front of 8,036 fans at Memorial Coliseum on Friday night.
The teams came into the night tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference and they play at the Coliseum again tonight. Both have 14 games remaining and Fort Wayne remains one point back of Wheeling for seventh place.
Leading the way for Fort Wayne was forward Sy Nutkevitch with a goal and an assist.
Goaltender Ben Meisner stopped 38 shots for Fort Wayne (27-20-11).
The Komets’ list of injuries was long – Dean Ouellet (head), Scott Fleming (foot), Matt Carter (groin), Jason Dale (groin), Christian Ouellet (leg) – though captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock was back after missing one game with a shoulder injury.
So Fort Wayne used all the reinforcements that it got before Thursday’s trade deadline, including forward Aaron Clarke, who came from Toledo by way of Orlando to complete the midseason trade of Mickey Lang; forward Mitch Bruijsten, who came from Stockton for future considerations; and defenseman Matt Bruneteau, who had been at Lake Superior State.
They all contributed.
The scoreless first period was back-and-forth with the Everblades (28-23-7) getting the bulk of the chances, the best coming at 10:54 when forward Aaron Bogosian skated out from the behind the Komets net and fired a low shot that Meisner covered.
After defenseman Nathan Martine dumped the puck into the far corner of the ice, Fort Wayne got the first goal of the game 5:08 into the second period. Nutkevitch got behind the defense to chase down the puck, then fed right wing Shawn Szydlowski, who redirected it into the top of the net.
The Everblades tied it at 15:00, when forward Brandon MacLean was left unguarded in front of the net and he slipped a backhand shot underneath Meisner.
But Fort Wayne regained its lead 1:04 later, as left wing Mike Embach fired a 30-foot shot that ricocheted off goalie Mac Carruth, flew high into the air and was smacked into the net just as it hit the ice by Nutkevitch.
The Komets increased their lead 1:50 after that, as Bruijsten redirected defenseman Nathan Maione’s shot from the blue line into the top of the net.
And right wing Brandon Marino – the ECHL’s leading scorer – cemented the victory for Fort Wayne with a shot from the left wing at 7:07 of the third period that was followed, 1:25 later, by a goal from Clarke.
The Komets improved to 10-8-9 at the Coliseum.
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