"He just has a presence back there," defenseman Curtis Leonard said. "He's just smooth and he has this way of giving you confidence."
It wasn't that Nagle looked spectacularly sharp, but he made his teammates' play look a little crisper by erasing a few mistakes with a red-hot glovehand. Whenever they needed him, he'd made the save to relax the situation. Nagle never needed to make a spectacular save because was technically so solid, always in position, playing his angles well and always the calm in the storm going on around him. He was ready to go immediately.
"The training staff did a great job of pushing me and testing the ankle over the last couple of weeks to make sure I was ready to go," Nagle said. "I thought the guys did a good job in front of me of clearing lanes and then jumping in to clear a few rebounds. There were only a few rebounds I wasn't able to place where I wanted, but overall it felt pretty good. Now there will be time to work on some things and keep getting better from here."
Despite all that, the Komets needed every save he made because Adam Morrison was spectacular at the other end, making 44 saves.
The Komets jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period when Mason Baptista set up a Gabriel Desjardins' goal, and then Mike Embach deflected in a Curtis Leonard blast for a power-play marker. After Mike Cazzola set up Jamie Schaafsma on the doorstep halfway through the second period, it seemed the rout was on.
Ironically, all of Fort Wayne's first three goals were the individual player's 11th of the season.
But the Rush weren't done fighting. Rapid City broke up Nagle's shutout after the goaltender pinned a shot against the goalpost, but Garrett Thompson let Mark Cooper beat him to the loose puck for a tip in. Then Hunter Fejes beat Brady Vail to the net for a short-handed goal to make it 3-2 6:41 into the third period.
The pressure picked up on Nagle from there before Embach's second of the night with 7:17 remaining gave Fort Wayne some more breathing room until Rapid City scored with a minute left. The Komets are 16-5-0 at home this season.
"I thought we had our best week of practice in my four years here, and it showed on the ice," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "We worked on increasing our level of focus on scoring, and just playing with a heavier approach. I thought we did a pretty good job at that. Pat was solid which is what we needed him to be."
The win pulls the Komets within 12 points of Toledo for first place in the ECHL's Central Division after the Walleye lost to Reading. The Komets play at Indy tonight. The Komets are 3-0 against the Fuel this season.
For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.