FORT WAYNE, IN — Trevor Cheek continued his weekend-long hot streak with two goals to propel the Komets past the visiting Wheeling Nailers 4-3 Sunday night.
But after 5-1 and 6-0 wins Friday and Saturday, this victory wasn’t as painless for Fort Wayne. Wheeling entered the finale of its four-game road trip with just one of six possible points but put together a fast start.
“We knew how desperate they were going to be, trying to bank some points at the end of this road trip here,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “So we knew that we were going to get a worthy opponent; obviously in the first [period], they took it to us. We were flat in the first.”
Wheeling (27-21-6) jumped ahead thanks to Cody Wydo, who one-timed a pass from Gage Quinney on a power play. Garrett Meurs added the secondary assist, and the former Komets forward decided he wasn’t content with the quick 1-0 lead.
On his next shift, Meurs snapped home his 20th goal of the season. Pat Nagle had a clear sightline but failed to corral the wrister.
Nagle probably should’ve made that particular save, but he also kept the Komets from trailing by even more in the first period.
“They out-chanced us 12-4, and I thought that’s where really Nags earned his paycheck tonight,” Graham said. “He really bailed us out of a slow start and allowed us to stay close in it, and we were able to slowly climb back in.”
Cheek capitalized on a fortunate bounce to help the Komets cut the deficit to 2-1 before the end of the frame. A Wheeling defender tried to backhand the puck around the boards behind the net, but it ricocheted off Cheek and rolled in front of the net before he whacked it past Sean Maguire.
Fort Wayne (33-15-7) started to take control of the matchup in the second period.
Less than one minute into the frame, a trip by Tyler Currier trip put the Komets on the power play. Within five seconds, they evened the score.
Gabriel Desjardins grabbed the puck after a tie-up on the faceoff and passed to Jason Binkley, who threw it on net. Maguire surrendered a rebound, and Mason Baptista cleaned up the mess in front for his 12th goal of the year.
Johnny Daniels pushed the Nailers back in front, but Wheeling’s advantage was short-lived.
After a roughing minor sent Ryan Segalla to the box, Maguire ceded another rebound that allowed Desjardins to whip in the equalizer.
“It was good, it was huge,” Graham said of Fort Wayne’s two-goal power-play night. “When we needed it, it was big.”
And then, the star of the weekend put the Komets ahead for good.
Szydlowski gathered a Wheeling turnover that skittered from neutral ice into the attacking zone and threaded a pass to Cheek, who notched his seventh goal in three games after shifting from winger back to the middle.
“I put him back at center. I should’ve listened to him,” Graham said. “When I had him on wing, he wasn’t really doing much. Sometimes as a coach, you’ve got to realize when a player is smarter than you. And he was smarter than me.
“He made the most of it. Obviously getting him on that line with [Desjardins] and [Szydlowski] there’s some really good chemistry. You’ve got three guys that I think all can still play in the American (Hockey) League, and it wouldn’t surprise me if any of those guys get called up.”
The tally also chased Maguire, who managed 16 stops on 20 shots. Doug Carr wrapped up the night for the Nailers with 10 saves.
Nagle handled 27 of the 30 shots he faced and improved to 7-0-1 on the season.
Please consider becoming a Patron as a way to say thanks and support us for what we do! https://www.patreon.com/thesinbinhockey