Quad City's C.J. Motte came into Wednesday's game as the ECHL's second-ranked goaltender, giving up 2.22 goals against per game and stopping .933 percent of the shots against him. Despite that, the Fort Wayne Komets became the first team all season to score more than three goals against Motte in a 4-3 win in Moline, Ill.
The win was critical because it allowed the Komets to maintain third place in the Central Division, now three points ahead of the Mallards and one point behind Tulsa for second with 35 points. Toledo leads the division and the league with 42 points.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period and 2-2 after the second before the Komets built a 4-2 lead on goals by ECHL Player of the Week Mike Cazzola and Brady Vail. The Mallards cut the margin with 5:41 remaining on a goal by Chris Francis, but could not push the tying goal past Fort Wayne goaltender Garrett Bartus who made 20 saves to improve his record to 5-0-1.
Cazzola was named Player of the Week after scoring nine points in three games. The rookie center has scored eight goals and 13 points over his last seven games. Captain Jamie Schaafsma had a goal and an assist to give him two goals and 10 points over his last four games.
The Komets will risk their three-game winning streak at 8 p.m. Friday against Brampton in their last contest before the Christmas break.
Three retired banners nights
As part of their 65th anniversary season, the Komets had been planning to add Terry McDougall and Al Sims to the retired banners both on Jan. 7, but now the team is going to retire McDougall's No. 19 on on Jan. 7 and honor Sims on March 25. That also happens to be a game against Cincinnati and Sims' son Jordan who plays for the Cyclones.
"That's when we're going to have our Hall of Fame night as well, and there will be some people going in that Al knows real well," Komets General Manager David Franke said. "It will be a fun night, and this way each guy will get their own night."
The Komets have not had hall of fame inductions since 2007. The team is also going to honor Brampton coach and former Komet Colin Chaulk by lifting No. 91 to the rafters on Feb. 18.
Though they are all making progress, there's no immediate time table for the return of injured players Pat Nagle, Gabriel Beaupre, Taylor Crunk and Cody Sol to the lineup, according Franke.
Nagle has started to gradually skate again, but has not taken part in a full practice because of his high ankle sprain. The Komets are hoping he can return to practice in a week or two.
"It depends on when he gets into practice. and how he comes out of practices," Franke said. "We just have to monitor him real close. A high ankle sprain for a goalie is different than it is for a skater. We'd rather err on the side of caution."
Beaupre, who has been battling a concussion for several weeks, has not returned to the ice yet, but has been doing some off-ice workouts. His goal is to resume skating after Jan. 1.
Crunk, who is also dealing with a high ankle sprain, has resumed light skating and wants to return to full practices after the Christmas break.
Sol, who was injured during Sunday's game with Orlando, is undergoing further tests but the Komets do not believe his lower body injury is serious. He has been played on reserve, Franke said, and will likely miss at least two weeks.