FORT WAYNE – Having finished off their best-of-seven first-round playoff series in just five games, the Komets get to take a couple of days to relax, recuperate and wait for either Cincinnati or Orlando to emerge as their next opponent.
And the Komets need the time.
The Komets ousted the defending champion Reading Royals with a 2-1 double-overtime victory Sunday at Memorial Coliseum – Aaron Clarke had the winning goal – but the fatigue was evident late in the game. Playing overtime without Mike Embach, who was ejected for a third-period clip of Kevin Walrod, and Sy Nutkevitch, who suffered an undisclosed injury in the third, didn’t help matters.
We’re playing good hockey right now, so you want to keep it going, Komets goaltender Ben Meisner said, but a little R and R will be a good thing, too. We’ve played a lot of hockey lately, three in four nights, so we’re pretty happy we don’t have to go back to Reading and play on their ice.
If it was 3-2 going back there, that would have been tough because that’s a damn good hockey club over there.
Like most hockey teams, the Komets don’t discuss injuries in the playoffs much, but they’ve got their share right now. The good news is that they will have options, such as Jason Dale and Matt Carter, who had been healthy scratches, if Nutkevitch cannot play. And, it’s possible Embach will be suspended by the ECHL for his actions.
The Komets don’t yet know when the next series – the Eastern Conference semifinals – will start, though Friday is a possibility. On Monday, the Komets announced their home games for the series: Game 3 will be played at 7:30 p.m. May 8, Game 4 at 7:30 p.m. May 10 and, if necessary, Game 5 at 6 p.m. May 11.
We know we have to go on the road, so that makes it easy (to plan), said coach Gary Graham, whose Komets became the first ECHL team to knock off a one seed as an eighth seed in a best-of-seven series.
The Komets also improved to 18-0 in series they lead 3-1 through their 62-year history.
Cincinnati, which is seeded third in the conference, leads second-seeded Orlando 3-2 heading into today’s game at Orlando.
During the regular season, Fort Wayne was 5-1-2 against the Cyclones, who have been led in playoff scoring by Byron Froese’s five goals and seven points.
Embach had six goals and seven points in six regular-season games against the Cyclones, whom he led in playoff scoring last year but traded him early this season after he didn’t see eye to eye with new coach Ben Simon. Brandon Marino had six goals and 13 points in eight games against Cincinnati.
However, just as the Komets had confidence heading into the Reading series because the Royals’ style of play matched well with the Komets’ systems, the same might hold true for Orlando. In the regular season, Fort Wayne lost its only meeting with the Solar Bears, 5-4 at the Coliseum on March 19. During that game, Meisner collapsed during the second period because of an accelerated heartbeat and dizziness. .
Playing Orlando would enter into the equation an interesting storyline: the Solar Bears have Mickey Lang, the ECHL’s MVP and top goal scorer in the regular season with 44. He began the season with Fort Wayne but left the team and demanded a trade Dec. 26. He was soon dealt, though the Komets didn’t get any return until March 13, when Clarke arrived. In the playoffs, Lang is one of five Orlando players with a team-leading three points.
Meanwhile, the Komets have Marino, who finished third in MVP voting and was the leading point-getter with 88.
The Cincinnati team, obviously, we’re very familiar with, Graham said. They’re a very good team, well coached. Orlando, they play a lot like us. I’ll start watching film on both teams, start getting some scouting reports ready, and probably get prepared for both teams, to be honest with you.