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The Journal Gazette

  • Andy Morrison | The Blade Komets defenseman Will Weber upends Evan Rankin of the Toledo Walleye at the Huntington Center on Friday night in Toledo, Ohio, as the teams opened the Central Division finals.

Friday, April 28, 2017 10:30 pm

Penalties doom Komets in Game 1 loss

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

TOLEDO, Ohio – Everyone in the ECHL knows it. You can’t put the Toledo Walleye on the power play and expect to win.

The Komets spent too much time in the penalty box and, predictably, lost 2-1 tonight to the Walleye in the opening game of the Central Division finals.

A crowd of 6,016 attended the game at the Huntington Center, where Game 2 of the best-of-7 series will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Toledo won the ECHL’s regular-season championship with a 51-17-4 record. Though second in the division, the Komets were fourth in the league at 45-19-8 and coming off a series with the Quad City Mallards that lasted only five games.

The Komets knew coming into the series that they had to stay out of the penalty box. During the regular season, Toledo scored on 13 of 31 power plays and Fort Wayne was 1 for 16, as the Walleye won 5 of 6 games between the teams.

Despite having since Saturday to think about what they would do – a stretch in which Toledo played twice to end its seven-game series with Kalamazoo – the Komets fell right back into penalty troubles.

And by the way, Toledo had the No. 1-ranked power play in the league during the regular season at 25.1 percent efficiency.

Through two periods, Toledo had a 2-1 lead and was 2 for 5 on power plays while Fort Wayne was just 0 for 1.

The Komets had the only power play of the third period and mustered only one shot on goal.

The Komets accounted for seven of the game’s first nine shots, as the teams engaged in a frenetic, back-and-forth period that saw the best scoring chance come at 5:05 when Fort Wayne goaltender Pat Nagle kicked his left leg to thwart an Alden Hirschfeld shot. Fort Wayne’s best early chance came after a 40-foot Jason Binkley shot that left a rebound coming to the stick of Shawn Szydlowski before Toledo goalie Jeff Lerg poked it away.

With Fort Wayne’s Ryan Lowney in the penalty box for hooking Tylor Spink, as he was about to score into an open net, the Walleye went up 1-0 on a power-play goal by Landon Oslanski, who fired the puck in from 35 feet at 2:27 of the second period.

Goaltending heroics ensued – Lerg foiled a dangerous Binkley shot from the right boards and Garrett Thompson on a 2-on-1 rush; Nagle stopped a Shane Berschbach wraparound attempt – but a shooter prevailed at 9:51 when Fort Wayne’s Trevor Cheek netted a blistering 15-foot wrist shot to tie it at 1.

After Fort Wayne’s Kyle Thomas was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking Beau Schmitz as he raced for the puck in the corner, Toledo’s A.J. Jenks netted a power-play goal at 13:42 by redirecting Matt Caito’s shot from the blue line for a 2-1 lead.

Lerg continued to amaze in the third period, stopping Mike Cazzola on a shot from point-blank range at 7:35 and Dan Milan from the same spot at 18:10.

Notes: The Komets played without Mason Baptista, Kyle Follmer, Taylor Crunk and Bobby Shea, who has a groin injury. … Before the game, Toledo signed goalie Jeremy Brodeur, who had been in juniors with Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League. He is the son of former New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and was needed because of the high ankle sprain suffered by Jake Paterson during the Walleye’s 3-1 victory over Kalamazoo in Game 7 on Tuesday. … The referees were Lucas Martin and Jonathan Sitarski. … The ECHL’s vice-president of hockey operations, Joe Ernst, attended the game. … Fort Wayne’s Will Weber is no longer wearing the full face shield he needed after taking a high-stick from Quad City’s Alex Petan in the playoff opener. … Toledo’s scratches were Simon Denis, Alex Globke, Carter Sandlak and Charlie O’Connor.

jcohn@jg.net