Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Dan Milan, left, is cross-checked from behind by Brady Brassart of the Quad City Mallards on Saturday night at the iWireless Center in Moline, Illinois.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Jason Binkley, right, readies to play the puck up the boards at the iWireless Center in Moline, Illinois, while the Quad City Mallards' Sam Warning defends Saturday night.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Mike Cazzola, left, battles with Mike Wilson of the Quad City Mallards for the puck Saturday at the iWireless Center in Moline, Illinois.
Saturday, April 22, 2017 10:50 pm
Komets send Mallards packing
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
MOLINE, Illinois – The Komets pride themselves on how good they've been at avoiding losses in back-to-back games. They have lost consecutive games only once since January and those losses both came in overtime shootouts, which aren't utilized in the ECHL playoffs.
There would be no consecutive losses at the iWireless Center in this playoff series.
Paced by their power play, which might have been the biggest single factor in the series, the Komets defeated the Quad City Mallards 3-2 tonight and completed a five-game victory in the best-of-7 series.
The Komets were 2 for 3 on power plays, 6 for 15 in the series. The Mallards were 1 for 4, 2 for 18 overall.
Fort Wayne out-shot Quad City 34-31.
The Komets will next face either the regular-season champion Toledo Walleye or the Kalamazoo Wings in the Central Division finals. Toledo has a 3-2 lead heading into Sunday's Game 6 at Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Fort Wayne would have home-ice advantage over Kalamazoo but not Toledo.
During the regular season, the Komets lost consecutive games in regulation time only three times and never lost three in row, so they were confident they would be able to recover from the 3-2 overtime loss here Friday that was cemented by Sam Warning's goal off a rebound.
The Komets had won Game 3 at the iWireless Center in overtime on a Kyle Thomas power-play goal.
Trevor Cheek, who came into the night without a point despite eight shots on goal, finally broke through with a goal 6:33 into the first period. Defenseman Kyle Follmer, seeing his first action of the playoffs, intercepted a clearing attempt along the boards and fired a shot, setting up Cheek to put the rebound past goaltender C.J. Motte.
It was only the second time in the series the Komets scored first.
Motte, who was excellent with 36 saves in Game 4, came up big in the minutes following Cheek's goal by foiling Gabriel Desjardins and Thomas shots from within 15 feet as Fort Wayne totaled seven of the game's first nine shots.
The Komets' power play came up with a 2-0 lead at 17:10 when captain Jamie Schaafsma redirected Jason Binkley's blast from the blue line and the puck bounced underneath Motte.
Goaltender Pat Nagle endured a barrage of shots early in the second period, including a breakaway by Justin Kovacs, and the Komets' power play struck again for a 3-0 lead at 12:14. From his knees, Thomas chipped the puck into the air and then swatted it into the net.
With Cheek in the penalty box for trying to slash the puck from Motte's grasp, the Mallards got only their second power-play goal of the series with Kovacs sending a pass across the slot and Grant Arnold one-timing it past Nagle at 19:25.
Chris Francis' redirection of a Kevin Gibson blue-line shot cut the Komets' lead to 1 just 1:46 into the third period.
Notes: Coach Gary Graham now has a 26-18 playoff record with the Komets and has won 5 of 8 series. … Graham inserted into the lineup forward Brett Perlini and Follmer, sitting Mason Baptista and Ryan Lowney. Taylor Crunk and Bobby Shea still haven't played. … The referees were Korey Chipperfield and Chris Pontes. … Scary moment in the third period when Fort Wayne's Will Weber sent the puck into the face of teammate Shawn Szydlowski, who left the ice for a couple of minutes.