FORT WAYNE – Komets defenseman Jordon Southorn, bathed in the sweat that comes with a double-overtime game, glanced toward the other end of the locker room at the stall that had played host to so many goaltenders this season.
There he saw Ben Meisner, who had stopped 155 of 161 shots in the five-game victory over the defending champion Reading Royals.
I can’t even get it together right now, I’m so excited about him playing that well, especially against an offensive team like Reading, Southorn said. He gave them one goal per game, basically, and that’s quite an accomplishment.
The Komets had a lot of heroes within games – such as Shawn Szydlowski with a winning goal with 8.1 seconds left in Game 1 and Aaron Clarke with the double-overtime series-clincher Sunday – but Meisner was the constant.
He had a goals-against average of 1.10 as the Komets became the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 in a seven-game series in ECHL history. It was an improvement over a decent regular season – he was 14-6-2 with a 2.39 GAA and a .919 save percentage – when the Komets used a franchise-record nine goalies.
I just had to do my job, and the guys did an unbelievable job helping me, Meisner said. I give a lot of credit to them for the way they played this series. I couldn’t have done it without them, and we couldn’t have done it without each other.
The Komets begin the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight against the fifth-seeded Cincinnati Cyclones at U.S. Bank Arena.
The Cyclones defeated the Orlando Solar Bears in six games to set up the third playoff series ever between the Komets and a Cincinnati team. The 62-year-old Komets lost to the IHL’s Cincinnati Mohawks 3-1 in a best-of-five first-round series in 1956, and the Komets beat the Cyclones 4-2 in the IHL’s second round in 1994.
The Komets were 5-1-2 against the Cyclones this season. Fort Wayne’s Brandon Marino had six goals and 13 points in eight of those games, and Mike Embach had six goals and seven points against his former team. Cincinnati’s Josh Birkholz and Paul Crowder both had five points in seven games.
Cincinnati was 41-23-8 in the regular season and has won 12 of its last 18 games. Fort Wayne, which was 36-24-12 in the regular season, has won 12 of its last 16.
We’ve been working as a team, and we played awesome during the (Reading) series, Komets forward Dean Ouellet said. We really came together. And everyone is pushing in the same direction, from Ben to the defense to the forwards. When you do that, you’ve got a great chance to win.
While the Komets’ defense has been solid in the playoffs, they could produce more on offense. They averaged 2.8 goals in the first round and were 0 for 13 on the power play. The Cyclones averaged 2.83 and were 1 for 16.
After doing what few expected in the first round, the Komets are feeling confident they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to tonight.
I’m so proud of these guys and happy to be a part of this group, Szydlowski said.