Trying to fight through a three-game losing streak, the Fort Wayne Komets needed to play like a hungry team, and on Thanksgiving night they gorged on Wings.
Except it wasn't that amusing or easy and their fans had plenty of indigestion when the Komets fell behind 3-1 early in the second period.
``When we're not going, it's tough,'' second-year center J.M. Rizk said. ``You're automatically thinking, `Oh, boy, here we go again,' but with the leadership group we have in this room, the guys right away kept us up and told us to get back on it. Then we got the momentum back and went from there. I can't say enough about the leaders in this room.''
With help from a 37-save performance by goaltender Kenny Reiter, the Komets rallied to beat the Kalamazoo Wings 4-3 before 7,479 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
Besides momentum changes, the game also marked some drastic changes in the Komets' lineup. Komets coach Al Sims mixed up all his forward lines and also played them with different defensive pairings. After scoring only three goals in the three losses, Sims felt he needed to make some big moves, including breaking up the ``Redrum'' line of Rizk, Kaleigh Schrock and Stephon Thorne which had played together for more than a year.
``I think the lines got a little stale and maybe too comfortable with each other,'' Sims said. ``I think when you shake things up, it makes people uncomfortable and they get a little edge to their game. They want to show their new linemates that, hey, I want to get something going here with you.''
Sims put perhaps his best shooter, Thomas Beauregard, with his best passer, Colin Chaulk and Josh Brittain, and moved team scoring leader Brandon Marino from their line to team with Brett Smith and Rizk with Smith moving from center to left wing. That opened up a third-line spot between Schrock and Thorne for Mike Hoban.
The coach also mixed up the power-play combinations, letting Chaulk play center instead of the point, and giving rookie Scott Kishel more ice time. The second unit featured the Rizk line with defensemen Daniel Maggio and Gabe Guentzel, who was playing his first game in Fort Wayne after being sent down by Norfolk of the American Hockey League.
``It's one of those things we went three games with only three goals, and sometimes you need to change things up and give it a different look,'' Marino said.
Sims said the goal behind the moves was to score four times. The moves all worked as Marino scored a goal and two assists, Guentzel scored a goal and an assist, Rizk scored a goal, and Beauregard scored the game-winner off a pass from Brittain.
``When a team goes into a slump like that, we need to find a solution,'' Beauregard said. ``The last three games it's not that the guys were playing that badly, but when it's not clicking, you just need to try something different. You have to try it. It couldn't have gotten worse.''
Not with Reiter in net, as he continued his spectacular play, improving to 3-1-1 by making 18 saves in the third period. He continues to lead the ECHL with a 1.67 goals-against average and .947 save percentage, and he made a couple of spectacular saves when it was 3-1 to keep the Komets in the game. One diving save across his crease robbed Kalamazoo's Steven Anthony of a power-play goal that would have made the score 4-1.
It didn't help the Wings that they were playing their fourth straight road game after three in Orlando. Including tonight's rematch with the Komets in Kalamazoo, the Wings are in the midst of playing six games in nine days.
The Komets just hope the momentum stays going this way for a while.
``There was a sense of urgency,'' Beauregard said. ``We were tired of losing in front of the home crowd. We fought hard today. Guys showed up tonight.''
KOMETS 4, WINGS 3
Kalamazoo 1 2 0 – 3
Fort Wayne 1 2 1 – 4
Scoring: 1. K-Aaron Clarke (Mitch Versteeg, Joe Cannata) 9:10; 2. FW-J.M. Rizk (Brandon Marino, Dan Nycholat) 11:27.
Penalties: K-John Negrin (high sticking) 1:08; K-Harry Young (fighting) 6:24; FW-Brent Henley (fighting) 6:24; K-Eric Kattelus (tripping) 15:14.
Scoring: 3. K-Versteeg (Steven Anthony, John Armstrong) 1:28; 4. K-Adam Polasek (Clarke) 3:36; 5. FW-Marino (Gabe Guentzel, Brett Smith) 6:46; 6. FW-Guentzel (Dan Maggio, Marino) 10:00.
Penalties: FW-Brett Smith (hooking) :18; K-Elgin Reid (roughing) 9:21; FW-Henley (interference) 16:25.
Scoring: 7. FW-Thomas Beauregard (Josh Brittain, Henley) 1:20.
Penalties: FW-Henley (interference) 7:24.
Shots on goal: K/8-14-18--40; FW/12-15-8--35.
Goaltenders: K/Joe Cannata, FW/Kenny Reiter.
Power-play opportunities: K/1 of 3; FW/1 of 3.
Officials: Referee-Nick Leduc; Linesmen: Shaun Morgan, Francis Trempe.