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Evansville at Komets
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – This game was worth the wait.
With two chain-reaction wrecks on Interstate 94 just outside Wings Stadium, Friday's game between the Komets and Kalamazoo was delayed for about an hour. Eight vehicles were involved in one crash heading east and four heading west. Luckily, there were no fatalities and no life-threatening injuries, according to press reports.
The game was almost as tense, as Kalamazoo scored three goals in the shootout to edge the Komets 1-0 before 5,183 fans in Wings Stadium, including a large contingent of Fort Wayne fans.
After only two games, the rivalry between the Komets and the Wings is definitely renewed as the constant hitting and even more trash talking proved players already don't care for each other. The Wings embarrassed the Komets in their home opener last week, and Fort Wayne almost did the same Friday night.
``It was one of those nights where we can walk away with our head held high and not feel like we gave one away,'' Komets forward Brandon Marino said. ``Last Friday was a little different. Tonight it could have bounced the other way.''
It almost did very early. Komets forward Josh Brittain was called for goaltender interference by referee Andy Thackaberry, who waved off a goal by Fort Wayne's Eric Giosa halfway through the first period.
``It was frustrating because we should have buried a couple,'' Komets forward Brett Smith said. ``I still think the first goal should have been allowed. We got one point on the road, but we deserved better.''
The Komets played much better than they did a week ago during their season-opening 4-1 loss against the Wings. Fort Wayne was much more disciplined defensively, comfortable playing within coach Al Sims' system, and was stronger through the middle of the ice. The forwards also did a much better job of helping their defensemen when the puck got loose around the Fort Wayne net.
This was a very technical game with both teams trapping through the neutral zone and trying to force defensive mistakes. Neither team could get to full skating speed up ice, so puck control became a sludge up the ice. The Komets controlled most of the play and won more of the battles in the corners.
They led in shots 17-6 through the first period and 26-12 through two periods before finishing with a 35-25 advantage. Despite not getting many chances early, Kenny Reiter again looked strong in the Fort Wayne goal, rescuing his teammates from a few mistakes during the second period especially. The Wings had more chances, but Reiter ended up making the more impressive saves.
``I felt like I make a few big saves,'' Reiter said. ``We definitely limited their second opportunities. I expect better of myself in a shootout, so that's something to work (on).''
Despite the 35 shots and four chances in the shootout, the Komets could not dent the net behind Kalamazoo goaltender Joel Martin. The Komets also missed several more scoring chances by shooting wide and rarely were able to get to a rebound.
Still, there were plenty of signs showing improvement. As Sims said, the Komets outshot the Wings 2-1 for most of the game and most teams don't do that in Kalamazoo.
`` The more you play with each other, the more time you have guys learning the system, the better the product is going to be on the ice,'' forward Chris Auger said. ``We did everything but put the puck in the net tonight. We had it down low all night.''