Defenseman Kevin Bertram’s impact this season had been mostly through guarding the Fort Wayne Komets’ zone and swinging his fists, as his league-leading 144 penalty minutes demonstrate.
Offense? That was a bit frustrating. He kept making bets with other scoreless players, banking that he’d net a goal first, and he kept losing.
“I was running out of guys to bet with,” Bertram said. “In fact, I did when Jake Pence scored the first goal (Monday).”
Shortly after Pence finally got to celebrate, it was Bertram’s turn. Plus, Bertram had an assist, as the Komets defeated the Bloomington Prairie Thunder 4-1 in front of 9,944 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“The last few weeks, (scoring) has been on my mind. I was definitely struggling early on, just to get my legs back under me,” said Bertram, who came out of a two-year retirement last summer but remains a member of the Fort Wayne Fire Department. “The last thing on my mind was to be offensive. I just didn’t want to be liability out there. But as the weeks have gone by … and I feel better out there, skating better, (offense) became something I was thinking about.”
The Komets’ victory, over the International Hockey League’s worst team, brought Fort Wayne’s all-time New Year’s Eve record to 34-13-4.
It also gave the IHL-leading Komets (18-7-4) a three-point cushion over the second-place Flint Generals, who lost to Port Huron 3-2 in overtime.
Pence, who has split time this season between defense and forward, doing most of his work as the former, opened the scoring 11:25 into the first period. His shot from the top of the left circle made its way through plenty of traffic before besting goaltender Loic Lacasse.
“I think he’s been great all the way through,” Komets coach Al Sims said of Pence. “He’s played wherever I’ve asked him to play. … With the injury to (defenseman Brandon) Warner, he’s really stepped up and done everything we’ve asked.”
Center Mathieu Curadeau made it 2-0 at :56 of the second period.
Bloomington’s Don Parsons trimmed that lead to one goal by breaking in on net, drawing goaltending Kevin Reiter to the ice and then easily slipping a shot between the pipes at 11:23 of the second period.
But defenseman Guy Dupuis scored during a 5-on-3 power play at 12:51 and put the Komets up 3-1 at 17:22 of the second period, and that was followed by Bertram’s tally.
Reiter stopped 14 of 15 shots. Lacasse stopped 27 of 31, as Bloomington fell to 10-17-3.
The Komets, who have won five of their last six games, play host to the Muskegon Fury on Wednesday at the Coliseum.
Notes: The referee was Joe Sullivan. … Fort Wayne general manager David Franke said defenseman Brent Henley will likely undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the coming days. Henley had his anterior cruciate ligament repaired in the offseason and, in his only game this season, came up lame after getting tangled up with an opposing player. While the ACL is supposedly fine, MRIs have been inconclusive. Henley could miss days or weeks, depending on whether any damage is found in his knee. … Forward Evgeny Saidachev (knee) could return this weekend. Warner (shoulder) will be out at least two more weeks. Goaltender Nick Boucher (groin) will be out at least three weeks.
-- By Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette