Saturday night was the first Affiliate Night for the Kalamazoo Wings as they celebrated their partnership with the Syracuse Crunch and Tampa Bay Lightning. The team handed out small banners that read "Let's Go K-Wings" on one side and "Proud Affiliate” on the other side.
They also had a few displays on loan from the Hockey Hall of Fame that were stocked with items from the Lightning and Crunch. There were jerseys from Dave Andreychuk and Ondrej Palat, gloves worn by Ruslan Fedotenko and Vlad Namestnikov as well as a horseshoe that was a lucky talisman for Tampa during their Stanley Cup run.
During the first intermission they also played a nice Tampa-themed highlights package while TIm Hicks' "Here Comes the Thunder" played on the PA system. It's always nice to see Andrei Vasilevskiy's no-look save on Peter Holland.
As it is Red Wing country there was also a display dedicated to all things Yzerman.
Yes that is a box of Steve's Stars in front of his jersey.
The crowd was decked out mostly in K-Wings gear, although there was at least one fan wearing a Ben Bishop jersey. The players themselves were wearing special jerseys featuring the blue and white color scheme and lettering style worn by the Lightning and Crunch. Those jerseys were then auctioned off to the crowd following the game.
Early on the Komets controlled most of the play with the K-Wings getting the occasional foray into the offensive zone when the top line of Justin Talyor, Anthony Camara, and Tyler Shattock line was on the ice. A couple of potential breakouts were stalled when the passes were just off the mark.
A hooking penalty at the eight minute mark by Camara led to the first power play of the game. Peter Schneider had a nice end-to-end rush to generate a shot short handed. Unfortunately, seconds later the Komets found the back of the net. Devin Mantha one-timed a pass from Garrettt Thompson past Nick Riopel who didn't have time to get across his crease.
The K-Wings got a power play a few minutes later when Dan Milan went off for hooking. Kalamazoo kept the pressure on as they possessed the puck in the zone for most of the man advantage. The Komets had issues getting the puck out of the zone as several clearing passes were easily batted down by the K-Wings. Unfortunately, despite generating four shots (and ringing one off the post) they couldn't get one by goaltender Eric Hartzell. Dajon Mingo, playing on the wing instead of his usual spot on defense, hooked a Komet as the power play ended.
The K-Wings killed off the penalty with Riopel making a huge stop at the beginning of it. Following the penalty a big hit by Michael Trebbish got the crowd into the game and seemed to energize the team. The K-Wings drove play in the final minutes, ending the period with 10 shots and several quality scoring chances.
Taylor tied the game early in the second as a rebound came out to him in front of the net. His wristshot hit Eric Hartzell's pads and trickle over the goal line. They went on the penalty kill shortly later as Trebbish fired the puck over the glass. The Komets had one chance but got pass happy, trying to turn a good opportunity into a great opportunity and ending with nothing.
Schnieder led a charge that resulted in several good chances but Lane Scheidl couldn't jam the puck past the Komet netminder despite several whacks at the puck. A few minutes later Charlie Vasaturo saved a goal as he slid to block a shot after Riopel was way out of position on an attempted wrap around.
Taylor, who now has 5 points in 5 games against the Komets was incensed after Jason Binkley drove him into the boards from behind. The teams leading scorer was ready to drop the gloves. Instead he held off and the K--Wings went on the power play. Schneider had a great chance driving in from the half boards but Hartzell flashed the glove and snagged it out of the air.
The mutual dislike between the teams started to show after Sorenson took a slashing penalty. Taylor, still a bit upset over the early hit looked to start something with 6'5" Cody Sol. Nothing came of it and the Wings looked to kill another penalty. Taylor did skate away rubbing his eyes in the international "Keep Whining" gesture. Not as obvious as Brian Boyle's "chicken" gesture, but still entertaining. Scheidl had a golden opportunity short handed but he shot the puck over the keepers shoulder.
The gloves finally dropped with 2:24 left as Sean O' Rourke took exception to an extra shove from Stephon Thorne . It was a short fracas with Thorne scoring a quick take down. A few minutes later Mingo was shaken up when a clearing attempt caught him on the leg. He crawled to the bench and was in apparent discomfort. The K-Wings would pick up a late power play but fail to convert and the period would end knotted at 1.
The remaining 42 seconds of the power play disappeared as Tanner Sorenson took a questionable slashing penalty. Nothing came of the four on four and the teams settled into a little back and forth.
Frank Schumaker took a penalty at the five minute mark and the Wings put some shots on net. Sorenson finally made the Komets pay for their indiscretion as he called for the puck between the circles and snapped a wrister past Hartzel. Schnieder set the play up by bullying his way past the Komet defense.
Riople made a nice right pad save shortly after the goal. However, as he was making the save, Tebbish was busy crosschecking Fort Wayne's Cazzola into him. The K-Wings killed it off as Fort Wayne had trouble even setting up in the zone.
After some pressure from the Komets, Kyle Follmer hooked Shattock on his way into the zone to set up another K-Wings power play. They came close to extending the lead as Shattock put one off the post, but Kalamazoo was not able to convert.
Fort Wayne pulled their goalie with 1:30 left in the game, but Kalamazoo did a great job of preventing them from getting any dangerous chances. Time expired and the K-Wings held on to their 2-1 victory.
Kalamazoo played one of their most complete games of the season and earned the victory. Riopel stopped 20 of 21 shots snapping a 5 game personal losing streak and picked up his first win since November 15h.