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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 07, 2017 11:17 pm

Cazzola gets 3rd hat trick, Komets win

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Mike Cazzola got the third hat trick of his rookie season – he netted two 20-foot shots and an empty-netter – as the Komets defeated the Quad City Mallards 5-2 in front of 4,892 fans tonight at the iWireless Center in Moline, Illinois.

It was the first of potentially nine straight games between the teams, who finish the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum and then begin a best-of-seven first-round playoff series Friday at the Coliseum.

Cazzola has six goals and 10 points in the last six games for the Komets (44-19-8), who have won five of those games, and he’s now totaled 30 goals and 75 points in 66 ECHL games.

Garrett Bartus stopped 33 of 35 shots for the Komets, who were coming off a 6-1 loss Wednesday to Toledo, which remains two points up on Allen for the regular-season championship. C.J. Motte stopped 42 of 46 shots for the Mallards (40-27-4), who have lost 8 of 12 games to Fort Wayne this season.

Because of injuries to Will Weber, Bobby Shea and Kyle Follmer, the Komets played with only five defensemen, one fewer than usual.

Mason Baptista made it 2-1 for the Komets by stealing the puck from Donnie Harris alongside the right goalpost, spinning and firing the puck in 8:14 into the third period. Just after getting tossed out of the faceoff circle, Travis Ewaynk took advantage of Baptista winning the draw to net a shot from 40 feet out for a 3-1 lead at 9:58. After Quad City’s Sam Warning scored, Cazzola netted a shot from the slot at 14:22 for a 4-2 lead.

Earlier in the day, Komets forward Mike Embach won the ECHL’s Community Service Award. He made over 20 community appearances this season and is active with Hockey Players 4 Kids, which teaches the importance of reading and school. Embach, a volunteer youth hockey coach, helped plan an event in which the players shopped and gave gifts to hospitalized kids, then stayed to play games and have tea parties.

Note: Shane Bershbach of the Toledo Walleye received the Sportsmanship Award for a second straight season. He had 18 goals and 80 points with 25 penalty minutes.