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Winning helps goalie Fucale find confidence

November 27, 2018

The pressure on any goaltender in hockey is immense. At Memorial Coliseum, it can be almost unreasonable, since there’s been such a history of great goaltending throughout the 67-year history of the Komets.

Less than two weeks ago, the team’s fans were quite antsy with netminder Zach Fucale, who seemed to epitomize the team’s early defensive struggles : especially since he’s the only player that has been sent to Fort Wayne by the Vegas Golden Knights.

But no one in the Fort Wayne locker room had been blaming Fucale for his part in the Komets losing eight of their first 13 games.

“He’s a workhorse. He’s working through that and he’s been good for us,” forward J.C. Campagna said. “Even in games that we lost, a lot of the goals were our fault. As players, we weren’t working together and we kind of left him hanging. It’s good to get a couple wins for him because he definitely deserves that.”

Fucale, 23, has stopped 51 of 55 shots in winning his last two games : over Brampton and Cincinnati, which had been leading the conference before the loss : and that has improved Fucale to 3-4-0 with a 3.54 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage.

Those statistics pale in comparison to teammate Lukas Hafner’s 5-3-0 with a 2.09 GAA and .932 SP, but it may be deceptive because of the way the Fort Wayne defense has played in front of the goalies and the opponents they’ve each faced.

With a three-game winning streak heading into Wednesday’s game at Cincinnati (12-5-2), the Komets (8-8-0), who are back at .500 for the first time since the second game of the season, have renewed confidence and seem more stable.

“When you’ve been going through what we’ve been going through, everybody’s confidence a little bit has been 50-50, a little shaky at times,” coach Gary Graham said. “Everybody’s hearts are in the right place. The guys have been practicing hard and working hard, but it’s just that sometimes you go through these things.”

Fucale is used to being in the spotlight and facing pressure : he was a second-round NHL draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens; won a Memorial Cup with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Halifax Mooseheads; helped Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships; and has played 63 games in the American Hockey League and also in the NHL preseason : so he wasn’t overly rattled by the start to this ECHL season.

But he’s not going to let two games get him overly excited, either.

“Playing pro hockey, you can’t start changing your whole game all at once, midseason, because that’s not what got you here,” Fucale said.

“I remember what brought me here. I remember what brought me to where I was, and I know where I’m at and where I’m going, and I know how I’m playing. It’s the little adjustments and that’s what I’m doing right now. If I keep learning from the little mistakes and adjusting, that’s how we get better, man.”

Notes: The Komets traded rookie goalie Kyle Hayton to Allen to complete the Oct. 15 trade that brought them Campagna for future considerations. Hayton stopped 27 of 30 shots and lost his only start at Rapid City, South Dakota.

jcohn@jg.net

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