This was a game in with the Komets’ tenacity would be tested. They were the hottest team in the IHL, making a run for a third-straight regular-season championship. Their opponents, the Quad City Mallards, were slumping, barely clinging to hope of making the playoffs and losers of nine of 11 games against Fort Wayne.
Though the recipe might have been there for the Komets to ease off the accelerator ever so slightly Friday night, they did anything but, playing doggedly en route to a 5-3 victory in front of 9,290 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
Each of the Komets’ goals was a lesson in resolve. With his team trailing 1-0 early in the first period, Komets forward David Hukalo blazed down the left wing and fired a shot into the side of the net. Somehow, though, Hukalo was able to whack at the puck from behind the net and jostle it free of the twine and into the goal at 6:21.
Thirty-three seconds later, center Colin Chaulk had the puck and narrowly avoided a check from the Mallards’ Shane Lovedahl. As Lovedahl lay on the ice, awaiting an injury whistle that would never come, Chaulk sent a pass to Konstantin Shafranov, who attacked the net and sent a backhand shot just inside the right goalpost.
Right wing Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock breathtakingly put the Komets up 3-1 at 2:21 of the second period. He banked the puck off the right dasher boards, accelerated past Mallards defenseman Kyryll Katrych, regained control of the puck and sent a shot underneath goaltender Kyle Jones.
Our goal has been to get the puck to the net as much as possible, said Schrock, who had a goal, an assist and a fight for the so-called Gordie Howe hat trick. We’ve been doing a lot better lately and that’s why we’ve been scoring.
Schrock helped set up the next goal with a shot from 40 feet out. Teammate Justin Chwedoruk was harassing the opposing goalie when Schrock’s shot trickled into the goal mouth, and Chwedoruk was there to sweep it in.
Most of our goals were about driving to the net and getting to the net, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. So that was the key, and it has been the key for us (lately), trying to score easy goals and funneling a lot of shots to the net.
The Mallards fought back with goals from left wing Obi Aduba and right wing Juris Stals, the latter coming during a 6-on-4 power play, but the Komets’ determination was demonstrated again. Just minutes after fighting the Mallards’ enforcer, Marc Rechlicz, Chaulk blazed around the Mallards’ defense and netted an empty-net goal to cement the Komets’ 11th victory in their last 13 games.
The second-place Komets (40-18-3) trail Muskegon by four points, with 15 games remaining and the teams meeting tonight at the Coliseum. Quad City is 23-30-11.
We’ve got to come prepared against Muskegon the way we did the last meeting (a 5-2 Fort Wayne victory March 12), Sims said. We need a checking line to shut down (reigning MVP) Todd Robinson, and we need our other two lines to score.