FORT WAYNE – The Komets have been playing to get out of the Central Hockey League cellar. They have been playing to save their jobs.
And they’ve been doing it fairly well.
Saturday’s 5-4 victory over the Quad City Mallards was the third in a row for the Komets, who came into this week having yet to win back-to-back games.
With recently acquired forward Tab Lardner arriving Monday, putting someone’s job in jeopardy, the Komets mounted a four-goal lead that energized the 6,988 fans at Memorial Coliseum. But the Mallards got back into it with goals from Mike McLean, Phil Axtell and Zac Pearson before goaltender Nick Boucher, who finished with 21 saves, cemented the victory.
When it was 5-1, we thought it was over and relaxed, Komets coach Al Sims said. We got in (from Evansville) at five in the morning and nobody is really physically or mentally strong at this point of three (games) in three nights. And the Mallards were playing their fourth in five. So it was a bit of a messy game, but you’ve got to win ugly sometimes. We could have imploded and lost it 6-5 if it was a week or two ago. But we didn’t and that’s a good sign.
No one was better for the Komets (5-8-1) than forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, the Fort Wayne native, who recorded the first hat trick of his two-year professional career.
I was a little bit nervous when Quad City cut into the lead and battled back, Schrock said. But I’ve got to really credit my linemates, Chris Francis and Sean O’Connor. They’re playmakers. All I have to do is stand in front and they find a way to get the puck to the net.
With the Mallards ahead 1-0, Schrock got the Komets going by sweeping a rebound into the net, during a power play, at 17:13 of the first period. Only 10 seconds later, Schrock attacked the rebound of an O’Connor shot and it deflected off his skate before sailing underneath goaltender David Brown.
The Mallards were so incensed Schrock’s goal wasn’t disallowed for having been kicked in they took a penalty for delay of game. That set up a Leo Thomas power-play goal from the left circle.
Center Mathieu Curadeau scored on a power play from the right circle at 8:21 of the second period, and Schrock got his third by jettisoning a wrist shot from the left circle that slipped under the crossbar at 9:06. It was the first hat trick by a Fort Wayne player since Matt Syroczynski on April 11 against Quad City.