KALAMAZOO — A hard-fought game against the Elmira Jackals (20-15-2-2) turned sour as a late goal doomed the Kalamazoo Wings (16-19-2-1) on Wednesday night at Wings Stadium.
After a scoreless first period, the K-Wings hit the scoreboard just over a minute into the second with a goal by Nick Sirota, his 11th on the season.
The K-Wings, more importantly goaltender Joel Martin, kept the Jackals off the board in the period even though the Jackals fired 22 shots at Martin in the period compared to the K-Wings’ five against former K-Wing net minder Maxime Clermont.
At the end of two periods, the Jackals were outshooting the K-Wings 37-21. In all, Martin stopped 46 of the 48 shots he faced, which is a new K-Wings ECHL record. The previous record of 45 was set on back-to-back nights by Julien Ellis (Nov. 7, 2009 against Gwinnett) and Jeremy Duchesne (Nov. 8, 2009 against Charlotte).
“The biggest word for tonight is probably heartbreaking,” K-Wings coach Nick Bootland said following the game. “Heartbreaking on that goaltending performance that we unfortunately let go to waste as a hockey team. Marty was absolutely outstanding tonight and there is no doubt in my mind he is the best goaltender in the league and we’re fortunate to have him.”
The Jackals scored midway into the final period as Kevin Harvey sent the puck over the shoulder of Martin to tie the game 1-1.
With time ticking down in regulation, the Jackals struck again as Louie Caporusso scored with just 35 seconds remaining for the win.
Injuries and call-ups continue to plague the K-Wings and finding players to fill those voids is no easy task. Out of the 17 players on the ice for the game only eight have been with the team the entire season. Four of the players that suited up last night are retired and have careers outside of hockey (John May, Dwight Helminen, Scott Matzka and Jeremy Tucker).
Bootland was appreciative of the sacrifice those players made for the team. “All those guys came in here, having to get up Thursday morning to go to work, paying a price for us. You know they are taking hits to make plays, that’s great to see,” he said.
Trying to get the players on the same page is no easy task for Bootland.
“These guys haven’t played with each other, they haven’t practiced with each other, so we’re trying to get them to have the right timing coming up the ice on the power play breakout for instance,” Bootland said. “Those are tough situations, special teams, when those guys haven’t played together or been out there. “
There may be some help coming for the K-Wings before their weekend games against Evansville on Friday and Fort Wayne at home on Saturday.
“I’ve never seen this many guys in my 15 years of pro hockey,” Bootland said. “We had to try and put a lineup together.”
The K-Wings will be back home on Saturday as they host the Komets on the Fifth Annual Golden Ice Night at 7:30 p.m. The K-Wings will be wearing special McDonald’s themed jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game.