Komets edge Wheeling to take over first place

Trevor Cheek

One of legendary Komets broadcaster Bob Chase’s favorite hockey sayings was that a short-handed team is always the most dangerous.

The Fort Wayne Komets proved that again Friday night with a 4-3 win at Wheeling which helped them take over first place in the ECHL’s Central Division. Because of illness, the Komets were playing without five regulars — Justin Hodgman, Dennis Kravchenko, Louick Marcotte and alternate captains Shawn Szydlowski and Cody Sol — but they still improved their season record to 4-1 against the Nailers.

Marc-Olivier Roy deflected a Bobby Shea blast past Wheeling goaltender Adam Morrison with 32.6 seconds left to give the Komets the win after Wheeling tied the score earlier in the third period.

The win allowed the Komets to pull one point ahead of idle Toledo with a 34-13-3 record for 71 points. The Komets have gone 13-1-1, including winning six of seen on the road, to claim first place for the first time since Dec. 23. The Komets have held first place twice before this season, each time for one day. Fort Wayne will try to add to the lead at 7:30 p.m. against Quad City at Memorial Coliseum.

With all the flu they were fighting, the Komets were playing one man under the maximum of 16, but luckily one of them was Trevor Cheek who also almost missed the game because of illness. Cheek scored twice to give him seven goals over his last seven games. He’s played 11 games with the Komets this season and has scored 12 points. He has scored at least one point in nine of 11 games.

The Komets led 3-2 going into the third period. They are 25-0 this season when holding the lead heading into the third period. Goaltender Michael Houser made 28 saves, and the Komets shut down all three Wheeling power-play attempts, holding the ECHL-leading unit scoreless in 19 attempts this season.

The Komets added forward Zac Larazza off injured reserve and forward Artie Tyanulin to the lineup after he was sent down from Tucson of the American Hockey League. Captain Jamie Schaafsma split time between forwards and defenseman.

The game was being played during a major flood warning in Wheeling as the Ohio River is expected to crest from 3-6 p.m. Saturday. Flood waters came up near the door of the WesBanco Arena but officials decided to try to get the game in, while also postponing Saturday’s game against Cincinnati. Friday’s opening faceoff was held five minutes early and the two intermissions were cut by three minutes to speed the game along.