(FORT WAYNE, IN) – Ryan Walters scored his fourth goal in two games and brought his team within striking distance in the final minute of regulation, but the Fort Wayne Komets staved off a Rapid City Rush comeback and took at 4-3 win on Friday night.
Fort Wayne struck twice in the opening frame to take a 2-0 lead into the second period. Gabriel Desjardins started scoring off for the Komets when he finished a one-timer by Rush net-minder, Adam Morrison, on passes from Mason Baptista and Curtis Leonard to give the Komets a 1-0 lead just 2:24 into the game. Mike Embach followed up over two minutes later with a deflection in front of Morrison 13 seconds into Fort Wayne’s first power play of the night to make it 2-0 at 4:28 of the first (Curtis Leonard earned his second assist of the game, while Brady Vail earned his first).
Fort Wayne increased their lead to 3-0 within the final half of the second period, capitalizing on special teams again. Jamie Schaafsma was the beneficiary of an active bounce from behind the Rush net and was on the back door to tap the puck by a sprawled out Morrison to make it 3-0 with 7:25 left in the period (Mike Cazzola and Garrett Thompson notched the assists). The Rush came back just over a minute later to get on the board when Mark Cooper hacked away at a loose puck and squeaked it by Komets goaltender Pat Nagle to make it a 3-1 Komets lead heading into the third with 6:21 left in the frame. (Logan Nelson and Ryan Misiak assisted).
With time running out in the third period, the Rush mounted a comeback and made things interesting. On their fourth penalty kill of the game, Hunter Fejes, back from his AHL stint with Tucson, took a Michael Young pass in neutral ice and drove into the Komets zone. With a man all over his back side, Fejes powered to the net and backhanded a shot over Nagle’s glove and put the Rush within one, shorthanded, at 3-2 with 13:19 left in the game (Young notched the lone assist). Fort Wayne countered with 7:77 left in the game when a Rush pass bounced off of a skate and came right to Mike Embach, who capitalized on the turnover with a wrist shot by Morrison to put the Komets back up by two with a 4-2 lead (the goal was unassisted). Desperate, the Rush pulled Morrison from the net for the extra-attacker, and Mark Cooper won an offensive zone draw to give the Rush the Fort Wayne zone. With 57.2 seconds left, Ryan Walters sent a rebound in front of the Komets net by Nagle to bring the Rush back within striking distance at 4-3 (Cooper notched his second point with his first assist, while Michael Young notched his second). With 20.7 seconds left, the Rush had another o-zone draw with an extra-attacker, but couldn’t get a good chance on net, and the Komets held on for a 4-3 win.
Adam Morrison suffered the loss, stopping 44 of 48 shots faced (7-7-3).
The Rush conclude their road trip against the Quad City Mallards tomorrow night in the iWireless center, with puck drop slated for 6:05 p.m. MST.