Sometimes there are games during a long hockey season when a goaltender knows he has to steal a game for his team which may be tired from a long stretch, over-matched by a talented opponent or struggling with injuries. Add all three together and fight off a bout with the flu, and that's what Kenny Reiter was up against Sunday.
A night after the Komets attempted 47 shots and lost 5-2, they came back to allow 43 and won 3-2 in overtime on Sunday night at Memorial Coliseum. They won because Reiter was all over his end of the ice, saving goals and momentum, a one-man gang using the paddle of his stick to both block and parry Cincinnati shots away from his net.
``He's the man,'' Komets forward Eric Giosa said. ``He's Superman out there, he's fantastic. No matter how open the net might look at times, he finds a way to stop them, diving across and getting his paddle out there. We're seriously confident with a goalie like that in the net.''
What's really crazy is that Reiter won Friday night in Cincinnati in a shootout, and then missed Saturday's game with the flu before coming back Sunday. The smaller Komets kept skating hard, sometimes made defensive mistakes and had to pray Reiter could erase them.
``For some reason over the past few years I've had some of my better games when I've been a little under the weather,'' Reiter said. ``I don't know why that is. I know they are a good team by looking at some of the players they have. We try not to pay attention to that and just be consistent every night, but I know it was heightened tonight by our lineup. I knew I had to be solid.''
The Komets are playing without six players because of call-ups to the American Hockey League and three more regulars due to injury. Still, they fought the ECHL North Division leads to a draw in three straight games with both teams earning four points. The Komets moved past idle Toledo for second place, four points behind the Cyclones.
Though they were smaller in size, the Komets stood up to their bigger opponents.
``That's the story of my life,'' Komets center Brett Smith said. ``As you can see, there's not a lot of size in our lineup right now, but there is a lot of heart, and we found a way to get four points out of it.''
The Komets led 2-0 on goals by Brayden Metz and John Dunbar, but the Cyclones rallied with their power play and a short-handed goal. Off a 2-on-1 break, Reiter made the initial save, but Mike Pelech beat everyone to the puck sitting on the goal line to tap in the game-tying marker with 10:27 left in the third period.
For the rest of the game the Komets seemed to be skating uphill, but Reiter kept the Cyclones off the board. From the second period on, Cincinnati out-shot the Komets 35-15.
``The only goals that got by him were the ones he couldn't see,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``He did a tremendous job tonight, and I think the guys felt confident with him behind them. I think Cincinnati felt they had us where they wanted us when it was 2-1 going into the third period, but it was a different result tonight.''
Even in the overtime, the Komets seemed to be hanging on until Dan Nycholat hit Mike Hoban with a clean pass entering the zone, and Hoban blasted a slap shot from the top of the circle. The shot surprised Cincinnati goaltender Brian Foster who got a lot of the puck, but not enough as it flew through his five-hole 3:35 into overtime.
``The past couple of games nothing has been squeezing in for our line and the whole team in general, and it feels good to finally squeak it by,'' Hoban said.
What could have been disastrous might give the Komets new confidence.
``I'm exhausted,' we're exhausted,'' Giosa said. ``We left it all on the ice. Nobody took the night off. We needed the two points and we got it done.''