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  • Whiteshark Photography Komets forward Jake Kamrass redirects a shot at Indiana Farmers Coliseum that is stopped by Indy Fuel goaltender Matt Tomkins on Friday night in Indianapolis. 

  • Whiteshark Photography Indy Fuel forward Olivier Labelle collides with Komets goaltender Zach Fucale, on the ice, setting off a melee at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Friday night in Indianapolis.

Saturday, April 06, 2019 12:00 am

Video, reaction to Rupert hit, K's making playoffs

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Given the circumstances, this was one of the dirtier plays I’ve seen in my 21 seasons covering the Komets.

The Indy Fuel’s playoff hopes had just been doused, so I understand there’s anger, but the Fuel was essentially playing for nothing when Ryan Rupert sent Sean Flanagan into the boards, in the type of play that can end a guy’s season.

To add to it, Rupert then punched linesman Christopher Williams in the ensuing melee.

Both Flanagan and Williams were injured. (Video of it all above.)

It bears noting, some of the Fuel players in the stands were cheering on the hit that injured Flanagan, whose Komets had just clinched a spot in the playoffs. Also, the ECHL said Williams will be unable to work a game today pending further evaluation.

(Tickets for the playoffs go on sale at 10 a.m. today, by the way, at the Memorial Coliseum box office.)

“I thought it was a gutless hit,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “I could see the way (Rupert) lined up to take the faceoff that his body language was bad because, obviously, their season was over and he knew it. He pushed the puck forward and dumped it into himself. I could see right away what was going to happen. It’s frustrating to see, since we’ve been dropping like flies, and hopefully Flanagan is going to be alright. I expect the league to do something about that.”

The Komets had already gotten the point they needed to cement a playoff berth and they eventually won the game, 3-2 in an overtime shootout, during which J.C. Campagna and Anthony Nellis scored and Zach Fucale thwarted shots from Indy’s Josh Shalla and Mathew Thompson.

“Obviously, there’s a weight off that we’ve made the playoffs and that’s great, but it doesn’t really change anything,” Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “We’ve still got to focus on improving our game. It hasn’t been good enough lately and we know that. We’re trying to be more consistent, game in and game out, so we’ve still got to approach these last two games looking to win.”

The Komets retook third place in the Central Division; they are one point ahead of the Kalamazoo Wings. Fort Wayne has two games remaining, 7:30 p.m. today at the Coliseum against the regular-season champion Cincinnati Cyclones and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Coliseum against the Wheeling Nailers, and Kalamazoo has only one game left.

The difference between the third and fourth seed in the divisional playoffs would be a matchup with Toledo instead of Cincinnati.

“Either way we face a tough opponent,” Schaafsma said. “It doesn’t really matter, but we want to finish with two wins and playing good hockey, and let the cards fall where they may. We’re not going to really worry about that.”

Graham was very pleased with the way his team played tonight, especially considering the Komets were so short on centers they needed to use Anthony Petruzzelli and Shawn Szydlowski at center.

“(The Fuel was) a gritty team tonight that came out banging, and I thought we did a good job of taking care of the puck. Obviously, we’ve been focused on that and it was a lot better for us. You can’t give that team many offensive looks because they’re deadly in transition,” Graham said. “It’s very challenging right now with our forward lines because we have no center depth, and the guys did a great job with that.”

As for the Fuel’s decision to pull the goalie for an extra attacker late in a tied game, the Komets knew it could be coming and talked about it during the second intermission.

“We said listen, ‘Our job is to win this game, but understand what you’re facing out there,’” Graham said, who got late shot blocks from Cody Sol and Szydlowski.

“It was a bend-don’t-break type of philosophy. It got a little chaotic there, but the boys got it to overtime and obviously the new kids did a really good job.”

jcohn@jg.net