The 5,000th game in Fort Wayne Komets franchise history was memorable for quite a few reasons.
Veteran defenseman Tyler Butler scored his first goal of the season, and it was the game-winner as the Komets beat the Gwinnett Gladiators 4-3 on Wednesday night in Duluth, Ga. The Gladiators came into the contest winners of 11 of their last 12 and with an ECHL-best 29 points, and the Komets had lost five of their last six games. The Komets are 9-7-1 overall and 5-2-1 away from Memorial Coliseum.
Butler's slap shot came from about five feet inside the blue line, and Gwinnett goaltender Mike Lee never saw it.
Despite being outshot 47-15 overall and 27-2 during the third period, the Komets held a 4-1 lead after Butler's goal with 4:06 remaining. Then the Gladiators scored twice in two minutes, and Komets goaltender Kenny Reiter had to stop a breakaway in the final minute to preserve the win.
``You can never have enough goals against a good hockey team,'' Komets coach Al Sims said in a phone interview. ``We didn't get many shots, but when we did, we converted.''
The Gladiators were called for only one penalty during the game, but the Komets' Josh Brittain scored on the power play to take a 1-0 lead. J.M. Rizk and Thomas Beauregard both scored their seventh goals of the season in the second period to give Fort Wayne a 3-1 lead heading into the third.
Gwinnett has lost only five games all season, including two now to the Komets.
Reiter was again spectacular in net, making 44 saves, including 25 in the third period. The Komets' record for most saves in a period is 28 by Rob Gaudet, Jan. 6, 1982, at Kalamazoo.
``He played tremendous,'' Sims said. ``The last two goals he had no opportunity on. There were a lot of posts and crossbars hit from both sides tonight, but that's part of his goaltending.''
The Komets received forwards Garrett Klotz, Ryan Lasch and Lucas Caputi from Norfolk before the game. Sims played Colin Chalk at center between Lasch and Caputi, used Rizk to center Brandon Marino and Brittain, and put Brett Smith between Beauregard and either Matt Firman or Klotz. The defensive pairings were Brent Henley and Daniel Maggio, Butler and Scott Kishel, and Dan Nycyholat and Ryan Hegarty.
To make room on the roster, the Komets placed forward Stephon Thorne on reserve and sat out Kaleigh Schrock.
``Both of them took it like professionals,'' Sims said. ``They want to play and I want them to be upset that they are out of the lineup. And I hope we get a great reaction when they come back into the lineup.''