KALAMAZOO, Mich. – When Kenny Reiter went down with an apparent knee injury 15:32 into the first period Friday night, the Fort Wayne Komets found something to play for.
After Kalamazoo's Nick Sirota and the Komets' Ryan Hegarty tangled in front of the Fort Wayne net, Sirota shoved into Reiter who had to lean back on his bent left leg, rolling it under as he fell back to the ice. After a minute to recuperate, Reiter stayed in the game, and his teammates picked up theirs.
The Komets scored four goals and maybe more importantly, kept the Wings away from Reiter most of the night thereafter as Fort Wayne won 4-1 before 3,942 fans in Wings Stadium. The Komets are 4-5-1 over their last 10 games, and all four wins have come against the Wings.
The Wings are also on a five-game winless streak and are falling behind in the ECHL's North Division, trailing Fort Wayne for third place by seven points.
``I thought our guys did a real good job in the defensive zone, our D moving the puck and Reiter moving the puck,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``I felt like Reiter did a good job tonight helping himself by jumping out quickly and getting it out before they ever got settled in our end. I thought it was a hard effort defensively.''
Reiter made 26 saves and just missed his second shutout of the season and the Komets' fourth.
``We played a lot better defensively, nowhere near the chances we gave up on Thursday,'' Reiter said. ``We got a few more bounces tonight than we have been getting, and I think that was because of how hard we worked. They hit two posts and that was big for me and my confidence. I just felt like nothing was going to go in.''
While the Komets were keeping the Wings away from Reiter, they were continually getting in the face of Kalamazoo goaltender Joel Martin. Thomas Beauregard scored a power-play goal from the side of the net, Brett Smith followed up a Matt Firman rebound for a tap-in and Eric Giosa scored from the doorstep on a Brandon Marino setup.
Beauregard has seven goals in eight games against Kalamazoo and five goals in 21 games against everyone else. In fact, the Komets have played the Wings 10 times out of their 30 games and have six of their 15 wins against Kalamazoo. The teams have six head-to-head games remaining.
The Komets had a much stronger effort all over the ice than they did in Thursday's 5-2 home loss to Toledo. There was more hustle, more hitting and generally more aggressiveness. Everything started from the defense.
``I think we really focused on that tonight,'' Smith said. ``That's all I could think about was trying to stay high, and I know a lot of the other guys were, too. If you can win a race to a loose puck go for it, but concentrate on stopping them first, and we'll generate our chances.''
Fort Wayne will try to break a three-game home losing streak at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Elmira.