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Audio: Coach Al Sims, after 3-1 victory Friday night.

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Audio: Brad MacMillan talks about leaving the penalty box to fight.

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Referee Ryan Wood keeps an eye on the melee as the Komets duke it out with Muskegon near the end of the first period Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.

Fists fly as K’s beat Lumberjacks

The Komets and Muskegon Lumberjacks met in the Turner Cup Finals last spring – Fort Wayne won that series in five games – and bad blood has spilled over.

Their first meeting of the season, a 3-1 Komets victory, was highlighted by great goaltending and, above all else, some wild fisticuffs.

Through 58 years of hockey, Memorial Coliseum fans have seen plenty of fights but the ones Saturday, sure to result in league suspensions, gave 6,852 fans in attendance plenty of treats on Halloween night.

The brawling began 16:20 into the first period, when Fort Wayne’s Brad MacMillan crashed the net. Muskegon’s Tom Galvin took exception and cracked MacMillan’s stick with his own, setting off an 11-player melee highlighted by a fight between the Komets’ Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and John DiPace.

As the parties dispersed, MacMillan celebrated on his way to the penalty box, and Muskegon goalie Sebastien Centomo mocked him.

On the ensuing faceoff, Muskegon’s Robin Big Snake cross-checked star center Colin Chaulk and incited a fight, before Lumberjacks enforcer Jason Lawmaster raced 40 feet to tackle the Komets’ most gentlemanly player, Konstantin Shafanov, and pummel him.

“Obviously, players on the Muskegon bench were told something – I don’t know by whom – and they went out and did what someone told them to do,” Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said, alluding to Muskegon coach Rich Kromm. “They didn’t do that on their own. Or, it’s the first time in 15 years someone’s done it on their own. That’s the last time I saw something like that.”

MacMillan left the penalty box to fight Lawmaster, throwing linesman Peter Cichy to the ice in the process. Big Snake, who had also been physical with a linesman during the fray, left his box to try and get after MacMillan.

“I’m pretty sure Muskegon’s coach had a good idea what would happen when he sent those guys out. I regret pushing the linesman, but that’s about it,” said MacMillan, who apologized to Cichy during the first intermission. “Someone had to do something. You can’t allow guys like Big Snake and Lawmaster to do those things. … If you’re going to play that role, at least be honest. You don’t have to jump guys. I’m sure there would have been willing combatants out there.”

The fights resulted in 63 penalty minutes, including game misconducts for MacMillan, Big Snake and Lawmaster. MacMillan and Big Snake will get suspended at least 10 games each for leaving the box, said the IHL’s vice president of hockey operations, Brad Jones, who was at the game and will review the matter.

“I certainly would have loved for Brad to stay in the penalty box, but he went out and got retribution for Shaf,” Sims said. “You can’t fault a guy for wanting to stick up for his teammate.”

Ironically, the one Komets tough guy who wasn’t involved in the brawling, Blair Stayzer, made the Lumberjacks pay by scoring a power-play goal at 19:09 of the first period. The Komets also go power-play goals from P.C. Drouin and Matt Woodard.

Nick Boucher stopped 26 shots for Fort Wayne. Centomo made 35 saves.

jcohn@jg.net

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