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K's lose in SO, will be 2nd seed in playoffs

The Komets' playoff fate had already been decided, but the last few minutes of their 4-3 road loss to the Quad City Mallards on Friday was still thrilling.

The Mallards got unanswered goals from Joel Gasper and Juris Stals to force overtime, which began right about the time the Muskegon Lumberjacks locked up the Huber Trophy and the top seed for the postseason with a 2-0 victory over the Dayton Gems.

At Moline, Ill., the Komets and Mallards played end-to-end hockey that eventually went to a shootout. Quad City (29-35-11) got a goal in the first round from Brandon Marino, but Guy Dupuis answered for Fort Wayne in the third.

Patrick Levesque's game-winning goal was highlight-reel. After striding toward the left boards, he attacked the net, tucked the puck between his legs, brought it back out and sneaked a shot between goaltender Nick Boucher and the right post.

Fort Wayne's winning streak was snapped at five games, and its run of regular-season championships ended at three. The Komets, who have won the past two postseason championships, will be the second seed in the Turner Cup playoffs and begin a best-of-seven series against Port Huron on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

Friday marked the return to the lineup of center Justin Hodgman, after he spent most of the season in the ECHL or higher-level American Hockey League. It didn't take for the two-time Cup winner with Fort Wayne long to reintroduce himself. He opened the scoring at 4:30, getting to his own rebound and whistling it past Jerad Kaufmann.

After Justin Chwedoruk put the Komets (48-21-5) up 2-0 with a shot from the right circle, Stals answered. But a Hodgman pass set up Colin Chaulk for a goal and a 3-1 lead at 12:35 of the first period.

Boucher stopped 27 of 30 shots and 3 of 5 shootout attempts. Kaufmann stopped 30 of 33 shots and 4 of 5 shootout attempts.

The teams meet again tonight at the Coliseum.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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