About 20 seconds after the opening faceoff Sunday, Toledo forward Brett Perlini blasted a long slapshot shot on the Fort Wayne net where rookie goaltender Steven Summerhays threw out his pad to shove the puck away...
...and right onto the stick of Toledo defenseman C.J. Chartrain for an easy goal from about 20 feet. Making his professional debut, Summerhays never had a chance to get back into his net.
All 8,252 Memorial Coliseum fans were thinking, ``Oh, crap!'' but Summerhays was thinking, ``Not again!''
When Summerhays made his Notre Dame debut on Oct. 10, 2010 against Boston University, there was an early 2-on-1 where the shooter aimed a blast for the pad and it bounced directly to a wide-open shooter for an easy goal. Summerhays and the Irish lost to the Terriers 5-4 that day.
But Summerhays bounced back to have an outstanding career at Notre Dame, and he bounced back Sunday to shut the Walleye down the rest of the game with 18 saves in a 2-1 win.
``I think that experience in college really helped me because you have to turn the page as quick as you can,'' Summerhays said. ``The guy meant to shoot it there for that off-pad shot. I think it helped that they only got five shots the rest of the period so I could settle down.''
It also helped that Chris Auger scored the game-winning goal at the other end 9:35 into the third period when it seemed like the Komets would never crack Toledo goaltender Hannu Toivonen. The former NHLer has tormented the Komets of late, keeping young and mostly inexperienced teammates in games until the sometimes nerve-wracking end.
The veteran might have the best glovehand in the ECHL, and he'll stop anything he can see. About the only way to put the puck past him is to beat him and his defense to rebounds. The Komets got to the rebounds a few times on Sunday, but even then Toivonen kept sucking up every shot.
Fort Wayne out-shot the Walleye 47-19, meaning Summerhays had to stay focused without a lot of action. It also meant any one shot could be the difference in the game that was critical to the Komets' playoff hopes.
``He rebounded well and made a lot of big saves for us,'' defenseman Jordon Southorn said. ``He covers his angles well, he's a bigger guy who takes up a lot of the net and plays aggressive. It was good to get the win for him, and I'm proud of him. He's just a good goalie.''
Summerhays saw a few better quality shots late in the second period and early in the third, but he never seemed jumpy or about to let the game get out of control. He was calm, and the Komets were calm around him.
``Those games are tough, especially when you're not giving up a lot of shots,'' Komets coach Gary Graham said, ``especially your first game as a pro, in this kind of crowd with these kind of points that are on the line.''
After the Komets lost two points on Saturday night with a loss to Cincinnati, they regained them on Sunday with their win and Florida's 3-2 loss to South Carolina. That means the Komets are four points up for eighth place in the ECHL's Eastern Conference.
Florida hosts Eastern Conference leader Reading on Wednesday and Friday and Greenville on Saturday. The Komets host Evansville on Friday and Toledo on Saturday.
Because Fort Wayne holds the tiebreaker over Florida, if the Everblades lose on Wednesday, the Komets clinch a playoff spot. If the Komets win any points in their final two games, they also clinch no matter what the Everblades do.
``We're aware that we can control our own destiny, and that's what we've tried to be the entire year, especially since the beginning of the year (January) when a lot of the adversity came,'' Graham said. ``We huddled in the trenches as a group and started to make this push. There's two more games left in the at journey, and we just have to be good and be detailed and finish out the right way.''