There were five fights but Fort Wayne stayed in control
By Blake Sebring, firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, December 30, 2016 12:36 AM
Because the Fort Wayne Komets needed bodies and because he's the captain, Jamie Schaafsma played Thursday night despite a sore back that probably should have kept him out of the lineup. In a game full of jabs and crosses, Schaafsma ended it with one awesome uppercut of a shot.
With Fort Wayne on the power play because of a cross checking call to Cincinnati's Jacob Graves, the Komets were working the puck around the Cyclones' penalty kill in a tie game inside the last four minutes. It had been a dirty, chippy game with 10 fighting penalties, including the closest thing to a line brawl in the last 20 years.
It was really something of an ugly game until Jason Binkley slid a long pass in front of Schaafsma near the bottom of the right faceoff circle. Binkley's aim was perfect, allowing Schaafsma to wind up and tee off on it. When stick connected with puck, it sounded like a gunshot inside Memorial Coliseum, and the puck flew just about as quickly over the shoulder of Cyclones' goaltender Michael Houser and just under the crossbar for the game-winning goal.
"A nice pass by Bink and I didn't think the goalie was going to be there so I took a chance and just tried to rip it as hard as I could and hit the net," Schaafsma said. "I was kind of surprised how hard it came off my stick. It felt good. Those shots... you always want to shoot he puck like that but it doesn't always happen. The puck stayed flat and I got hold of it well."
After struggling the last two games against Brampton and Indy, this was probably one the Komets should have been the underdog for. The Cyclones had won three of their last four, gaining seven of their last possible nine points, and goaltender Houser had been spectacular over his last six starts.
But the short-handed Komets set the tone all night, leading 2-0, 3-2 and finally 4-3. Shawn Szydlowski stayed red-hot with a goal and two assists, Kyle Thomas and Gabriel Desjardins also scored, and goaltender Garrett Bartus improved to 7-1-1 with 29 saves.
"It was a pretty good game by us," Schaafsma said. "We were a little better defensively than we have been. We still have a lot of areas to improve, but the biggest thing was coming together and everybody sticking together for each other tonight. We have a lot of tough guys out of the lineup, but it was nice to see a lot of guys step up and do that dirty work."
There were three fights in the final seconds of the first period, and five in all, including a pair by the Komets' David Friedmann and Mike Embach who fight about once a season.
"I did not like the way that team over there decided to handle the physical play," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "They have some big, tough guys grabbing the smallest guys on the ice. I thought that was unbelievable. I don't know what that gameplan was tonight but they were flying in, late hits everywhere... There's a lot of mental notes taken in that locker room for when we get healthy, that's for sure."
To help themselves until they can get healthy, the Komets traded cash with Greenville for goaltender P.J. Musico and with Wheeling for defenseman Kyle Flemington before the game, and both are expected to arrive before Saturday's game against Toledo. He's played only one game this year, but last season in 23 games with Greenville and Quad City Musico was 13-6-2 with a .918 save percentage and 2.45 goals against average. He was 3-0 against the Komets, stopping 87 of 92 shots. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Flemington played 19 games with the Nailers this year with 1 goal and 27 penalty minutes.
"We're just trying to see if we can get a little bit better with these deals and see what happens," General Manager David Franke said. As for the roster? "That will get figured out as time goes on here. We have a lot of guys hurt and guys called up so we'll see how it all plays out."
Franke and Graham said the team is in position roster-wise and under the salary cap to maybe carry three goaltenders, which some ECHL teams are doing. With Pat Nagle, Cody Sol, Gabriel Beaupre, Taylor Crunk and Garrett Thompson injured and Bobby Shea and Trevor Cheek playing in the American Hockey League, the Komets have plenty of room. They also have a reserve spot open which means that player can be activated at any time but he doesn't count against the active roster.
"We haven't decided what we're going to go yet, but we don't have to make a decision right away, and it should be some good competition," Graham said.
"We have some extra bodies around coming in so we should be fine. In probably 10-14 days (we'll) start getting some guys back here."
Despite all the injuries and call-ups, the Komets are holding on, going 9-3-1 in December and 12-3 at home. They'll get their biggest test of the month on Saturday against the league-leading Walleye.
For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.