FORT WAYNE – The Komets demonstrated their physical and mental toughness in a five-game, first-round upset of ECHL defending-champion Reading.
They should be a tough opponent in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Cincinnati, which eliminated Orlando with a 2-1 win in Game 6 on Tuesday.
Sometimes, when you battle for a month to make the playoffs, you have momentum, said Aaron Clarke, who scored in double overtime as the eighth-seeded Komets ousted top-seeded Reading with a 2-1 victory Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
They’re a great team, and maybe we’re peaking at the right time. We need to take that momentum into the next series.
The Komets will play their next two games on the road, likely starting Friday. The Komets showed against the Royals that they can deal with obstacles.
Reading swarmed around Fort Wayne’s top offensive players, Brandon Marino, Chris Auger and Mike Embach, yet they still got four goals and the rest of the team provided 10 more. Reading got only eight goals, none from its top three scorers of Domenic Monardo, Yannick Tifu and Ryan Cruthers.
No one is trying to be the hero, Marino said. Everyone is buying into what we’re doing and trying to be team-first.
The Komets fought through injuries, playing two games without Dean Ouellet and losing Sy Nutkevitch in the third period of Game 5 to a back injury. Without him and Embach, who got a late game misconduct for clipping Sunday, the Komets played overtime with only eight forwards.
And it was their third game in four nights.
It wasn’t easy. I was trying to take 20-second shifts (in overtime), Clarke said. But everyone chipped in and did their part, and we were just trying to keep it simple at that point.
Embach was fined an undisclosed amount Tuesday by the ECHL for injuring Reading’s Kevin Walrod in the third period Sunday.
Reading, which had superior size, tried to rough up the Komets in Games 4 and 5. That included a shoving match and trash talking during warmups Sunday.
We know what was going on. They were fighting for their lives, Marino said. They were being intense and doing whatever they could to get under our skins because they didn’t want the series to end.
Here are other examples of the Komets’ mental toughness:
Despite being 16-11-9 at the Coliseum in the regular season, the Komets have won 10 of 11 there.
Despite the Komets using a franchise-record nine goalies in the regular season, Ben Meisner has looked confident and stopped 96.3 percent of the shots he’s faced.
After Embach’s clip, the Komets killed off a major penalty in overtime.
It only gets harder from here, defenseman Jordon Southorn said. It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to be ready for them.