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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne’s Neil Musselwhite battles with Jason Kostadine for possession of the puck Thursday.
Komets 5, Quad City 2

Thankful for a victory

Last-place Komets top Mallards, snap 5-game losing streak

– The Komets feel as if a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.

“I think our whole team feels that way,” Komets coach Al Sims said Thursday night after his team netted a season high for goals in a 5-2 victory over the Quad City Mallards at Memorial Coliseum.

“Everybody’s acting like we just won the Cup in the dressing room. Everybody’s pretty excited. All three lines contributed. Obviously, our power play with the kids (Steve Francis, Frankie DeAngelis and Brandon Warner) out there, scoring was amazing. That was more than we ever expected.”

The Komets netted goals on 3 of 5 power plays against a team that ranked fourth on the penalty kill with an efficiency of 85.7 percent. The Komets, who had the worst offense in the 18-team Central Hockey League with 1.45 goals per game, came in with a No. 13 ranking on the power play (14.7 percent efficiency).

“It’s good to start off the weekend this way. But you don’t get anywhere with one win,” said forward Sean O’Connor, who had three assists. “It feels good to get a couple goals and to actually put up a performance in front of our goaltenders. That’s the worst when your goaltenders have played so well, and we just haven’t been able to put the puck in the net. It’s good to pay them back a little bit.”

The Komets remain in last place with a 3-8-1 record, a far cry from their last three championship seasons in the IHL.

They improved their all-time Thanksgiving Day record to 31-14-4.

Some of the credit should go to Sims, who spent this week calling acquaintances such as former NHL coach Claude Noel and longtime American Hockey League coach Roy Sommer for advice on snapping out of the scoring slump and the five-game losing streak.

“We went to a more aggressive system,” Sims said. “I talked to a lot of coaches in my past who have helped me out and asked them, ‘We’re not scoring. Is there anything else we can do to get more aggressive and to create more chances?’ We worked on it this week. It’s not perfect, but you could see we were much more aggressive in the neutral zone on people.”

Early power-play goals from Francis and DeAngelis, who had four points, and goals from Quad City’s Mike McLean (power play) and Joel Gasper, left the game tied at 2 late in the second period. Then a DeAngelis shot from the blue line was knocked down by Quad City (8-7-0) defenders in front of the net, setting up the onrushing Warner for his goal, which was swept underneath netminder Adam Russo at 16:23.

Third-period goals scored 31 seconds apart by forwards Mathieu Curadeau, during a 3-on-2 rush, and Neil Musselwhite, on a one-timer from the slot, cemented the victory for the Komets in front of 7,289 fans.

Fort Wayne goaltender Nick Boucher stopped 36 of 38 shots. Russo stopped 30 of 35.

“We’ve gone over game tapes and seen the chances we’ve been getting,” said O’Connor, whose team plays at Evansville tonight. “We’ve been outchancing teams and are right there. The confidence level and putting the puck in the net just needs to be there. We worked harder this week on our skills, on shooting and scoring, and it paid off. It’s just one game, though, and we need to feed off it and try to keep it going.”

Notes: Boucher foiled a first-period penalty shot by Brandon Marino, who was hauled down on a breakaway by defenseman Danko Mironovic, scratched from the previous eight games. … To make room, the Komets made defenseman Bobby Phillips a healthy scratch.