The Komets were on the verge of probably their lowest point of the season. The Eastern Conference-worst Evansville IceMen, who had looked particularly messy Wednesday, had pulled even in the third period at Memorial Coliseum, thanks to Dylan Clarke’s hat trick.
But, as they have too few times this season, the Komets responded to grab a 6-3 victory and keep their still-fading playoff hopes alive.
We’ve got to win every game. We know that. We’ve got one down, but we’ve got nine to go and it just feel good to score six goals for our hockey team, said coach Al Sims, whose Komets (30-30-3) hadn’t scored that many times in their previous 13 games.
With 63 points, the Komets are eight back of Toledo for the eighth and final ECHL playoff spot, with Kalamazoo (67) and Wheeling (65) in between.
Fort Wayne, which won the CHL championship last year, is likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Clarke’s third goal of the night, during a power play, came with a slap shot from the right circle 3:19 into the third period, and it had the 5,789 fans squirming in their seats after watching the Komets squander a two-goal lead.
But it took just 1:03 for Fort Wayne to answer; defenseman Dan Nycholat got to a rebound and scored his first goal of the season from the left circle. Just 33 second after that, forward John Dunbar, who had sat out the previous 12 games with an ankle injury, scored off a rebound.
Forward Matt Firman cemented the victory – Fort Wayne’s fourth in its last 14 games – with a shot from the left circle at 15:33.
I was definitely frustrated, Komets goaltender Charlie Effinger said of giving up the lead. I still thought we could win the game, but it was deflating to give up the lead in the third period.
The way that the Dunbar line answered back – just boom, boom – it was a huge boost of confidence. For me, having a little bit of a layoff, it’s never easy, but to have those guys answer back, I felt like, Let’s just do our jobs the rest of the way and we’ll be fine here.’
Effinger, who stopped 30 of 33 shots, had sat out the previous eight games. He took the spot of goalie Jeff Deslauriers, who had played in eight straight games but was called up by Anaheim of the NHL on Tuesday.
As an interesting side note, Deslauriers showed up 14 minutes late to the Ducks’ 2-1 victory Tuesday at Minnesota. The emergency goalie he replaced was Zach Sikich, who played for the Komets in 2005-06, had never past the Double-A level of hockey and retired in 2007.
They were threatening to tie it all game, and they finally did. But our team responded, Sims said. You can’t say enough about the effort. I thought we outplayed them and deserved the win. It was great for Charlie to get a win. You could tell he had a little bit of rust on him, ... but he did a good job of shutting them down after that one goal in the third period.
Against the IceMen (22-36-5), Komets defenseman Nick Schaus opened the scoring during a power play at 6:21 of the first period, when his shot from just inside the blue line ricocheted off the stick of Evansville’s Patrick Kennedy and fluttered past goalie James Reid, who stopped 41 of 47 shots.
The Komets, who were without captain Colin Chaulk (groin) for a second straight game, got two goals and an assist from forward Eric Giosa.