Fucale’s save sparks K’s in victory
Zach Fucale’s poor start is a thing of the past. He has won seven straight games, including a 23-save performance tonight that was highlighted by a snazzy glove save in the first period, as his Komets defeated the Wichita Thunder 5-2 in front of 6,631 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
It was the first of three games in as many days for the Komets (13-10-0), who have won three of their last four games.
Wichita (11-10-4) saw its winning streak halted at five games.
(Video highlights from the game are above.)
Fucale came in to the game 7-4-0 with a 3.19 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage.
The Komets’ roster changed much coming into the game, not just because of the Thursday re-signing of Mason Baptista, who had started the season with Freiburg in Germany but returned to Fort Wayne where he had a career-best season of 18 goals and 50 points in 2017-18.
The Komets bolstered the offensive capabilities of their blue-line corps today, and trimmed some roster space, by acquiring defenseman Trey Phillips from the Jacksonville Icemen for forward Garrett Ladd and defenseman Chris Rygus.
Phillips, 25, had four assists in 20 games with the Icemen. He is coming off a four-season career at the University of Vermont : he was a teammate of Fort Wayne’s Anthony Petruzzelli : before which he was a prolific scoring defenseman in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, totaling 25 goals and 65 points in 58 games in 2013-14 for the Canmore Eagles. That season, Phillips was the AJHL’s MVP and Most Outstanding Defensemen.
Ladd had three goals and six points in 15 games for the Komets. Rygus had one goal and two points in eight games.
Once the puck had dropped, the Komets wasted little time in getting their offense going; captain Jamie Schaafsma scored a power-play goal with a short-range backhand shot 6:52 into the first period, though Wichita’s Ralph Cuddemi answered with a power-play goal from the left circle 46 seconds later.
Fort Wayne defenseman Jason Binkley netted a shot from the blue line at 8:47, forward J.C. Campagna scored after Justin Hodgman fed him a pass across the slot at 10:59 and defenseman Chase Stewart scored from the 50 feet out at 16:12 to make it 4-1.
Meanwhile, Fucale had a breathtaking save on Dyson Stevenson, diving to his left to love a backhand shot. Stevenson got out his frustration from the miss late in the first period when he fought Campagna, dropping him with a flurry of punches that left the ice bloodied.
With Campagna in the stands : his eye black and blue : Stevenson had to drop the gloves with the Komets’ enforcer, Taylor Crunk, 4:06 into the second period, and the Thunder’s Pierre-Cedric Labrie netted a power-play goal at 6:31.
But Fort Wayne got some breathing room 5:56 into the third period, when Jake Kamrass netted a slap shot for a 5-2 lead from the left circle after Hodgman won a faceoff back to him.
Wichita’s Stuart Skinner stopped 34 shots.
The Komets play host to the rival Toledo Walleye at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Notes: The referee was Sean MacFarlane. ... The Komets played without Cody Sol (knee), Jordan Sims, Brandon Lubin, Aidan Muir and Phillips. ... The ECHL’s manager of officiating, Stephen Thomson, attended the game.