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.
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.
Sunday, April 23, 2017 12:20 am
Komets' best ousted Mallards
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
MOLINE, Illinois – The feeling in the Komets’ locker room, after their 3-2 victory Saturday night at the iWireless Center, was that it was their best game of the postseason.
They consistently had offense. They were good on special teams. They only had a couple of defensive lulls and Pat Nagle bailed them out. And they played with some physicality.
What I’ll remember about this game, which gave Fort Wayne a 4-1 series victory, was the Kyle Thomas goal that proved to be the winner. He took a pass from Jamie Schaafsma, chipped it into the air, got hit from behind by Chris Francis, and then swatted the puck in from 15 feet out while it was 8 inches off the ice.
It all happened super quick but it’s in the video above.
“There was a lot of traffic,” Thomas said. “I didn’t mean to get it up that high, but I did mean to get it up. I was just going to hit the puck when it landed, but I hit it too high. Then, I was checked and I just tried to whack at it and it ended up working out.”
The Komets would never say so, but there’s zero doubt they would rather see Kalamazoo in the next series. They would have home-ice advantage over the Wings, have played better against them and the Wings aren’t as talented or consistent as Toledo.
That said, I don’t think the Komets are frightened of the Walleye – at all.
Some other thoughts:
-- The Komets have six or seven reliable players on faceoffs. That is insane. Usually, teams have three or four. Travis Ewanyk is the best of them, but the Komets have so many guys that it enables them to be aggressive (who cares if one guy gets tossed from the circle if another can do the job?) and to use different guys depending on if they want a righty or a lefty on the ensuing shot. With all the call-ups and injuries during the season, different guys got faceoff work and it’s paying off now.
-- I questioned putting Kyle Follmer in tonight for Ryan Lowney, but Follmer was terrific. Very calm and good at both ends.
-- The Komets aren’t complaining about getting some time off. They want to heal some injuries and get some rest. Speaking of which, Bobby Shea is at least a week away from being available. He has a groin injury.
-- Weird moment in Game 5 was late in the game, when Quad City goalie C.J. Motte took a Trevor Cheek shot off the mask. After the whistle, I saw Motte stumble twice. The referee did check on him, but not the trainer. That seemed to be a lapse by the Mallards, especially since they could have milked it for time to strategize.
-- Attendance was announced as 2,000. Sad for those of us who were in the Quad Cities when this was one of the most raucous places a visiting team could play. I blame the Calgary Flames. They came in, put in an American Hockey League team and it was never the same.
-- Does anyone really question playing Nagle over Garrett Bartus right now? Believe me, Barts will still have a role to play but Nagle has bailed the Komets out countless times.
-- Cody Sol has turned into such a good defenseman. People outside Fort Wayne don’t believe it, but he’s no longer just a goon and he’s showing it. He still gets caught some times – it happened a lot in Game 4 – but he was a rock Saturday.