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Komets goalies picking up the slack

March 30, 2018 GMT

The Komets have the top-ranked offense in the ECHL, averaging 4.07 goals per game, but things have changed some lately. In the wake of injuries, the Komets have scored only two goals in five of their last six games.

That has put the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the goaltenders, Michael Houser and Garrett Bartus.

Houser delivered one of the best games of the season Wednesday, stopping 38 shots at Memorial Coliseum as the Komets defeated the Kansas City Mavericks 2-1 in overtime, when Justin Hodgman cemented the victory.

Heading into today’s 7:30 p.m. game at Cincinnati (37-27-3), the Komets (44-18-5) look to still be without all-star Artur Tyanulin, Ryan Culkin, Bobby Shea, Marco Roy, Cam Lanigan and Taylor Crunk.

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Houser’s mentality heading into a game against his former team? Control what he can control.

“I can’t go down there and score goals. I’ve got to make sure I do my job at my end,” he said.

Whether the Komets have injuries or not, if their offense is churning or not : and it can churn with the league’s leading scorer, Shawn Szydlowski (30 goals, 77 points), Garrett Thompson (29 goals, 68 points) and Gabriel Desjardins (29 goals, 62 points) : Houser said it’s important not to change the goaltender’s mentality.

He always wants to keep the goals against to a minimum, but when you start thinking you have to pitch a shutout, you can get into trouble.

“I think when you do that, you’re putting too much pressure on and getting in your own head,” he said. “I know that once in a while I will have to come up with a game like (Wednesday), but these guys have scored so many goals that I won’t have to do this every night and that’s why we win so many games. If we go through a stretch where the offense isn’t going, I’ve got to make sure that I’m able to this and I think that I am.”

Houser is 26-11-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and two shutouts. Bartus is 17-5-1 with a 2.68 GAA, .909 SP and one shutout.

The Komets have locked up at least second place in the Central Division and still have an outside chance of catching Toledo for first place; they are six points back with five games left, one more than the Walleye.

“Hopefully this was a turning point for the team and we’re able to start playing playoff hockey on a regular basis,” Hodgman said after Wednesday’s game, which went to overtime on a late goal from Cody Sol, who had missed the previous 17 games with an elbow injury.

Also key: Stopping Kansas City on six power plays.

“We did great,” Hodgman said. “Shot-blocking, taking away lanes, protecting the middle of the ice. I think we got away from the basis of penalty killing for a little while there, but we were back to it. We made it an emphasis not to let them get one on the (power play) and I’m really proud of all the penalty killers.”

jcohn@jg.net