ALLEN, Texas – The Komets were at the wrong end of an remarkable comeback Saturday night – the Allen Americans scored four unanswered goals and won 6-5 on J.P. LaFontaine’s overtime goal – and Fort Wayne had great respect for what their opponents did.
But the Komets’ goal was always to win 2 of 3 game at the Allen Event Center, that can still happen and they believe it will.
“It’s sort of ridiculous what just happened out there … but we’ve got to have a short memory,” Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “This team is a special team and when we’ve had our back to the wall, we’ve been a good team. In our minds, it’s important to believe we can do it and not lose focus or dwell on what happened tonight. We won’t let the momentum carry into the next game. We’ve got to come out and play like the season is on the line because it is. “
Allen scored on 3 of 6 power plays, including goals in the third period from Tristan King and Gregor Hanson, as referees Nic Leduc and Peter MacDougall gave the final four penalties to Fort Wayne.
This on a night that Gabriel Beaupre was knocked out of the game on a hit from behind by Vincent Arseneau, who didn’t get a penalty for it in the second period and doled out a similar hit to Trevor Cheek in the third.
The Komets chose not to comment on the officiating.
“Winning 2 of 3 on the road is what we came to do,” Komets defenseman Jordon Southorn said. “It obviously wasn’t supposed to be in this order, but we’ve got a good group in here. And we’re going to stick together. (The Americans) did something special tonight, coming back in the third period and winning in OT. But why can’t we do something special, too? We’re going to go one game at a time, one period at a time, and it starts tomorrow.”
Game 5 will be today at the Allen Event Center, where there was a crowd of 5,602 on Saturday.
The Americans got two David Makowski goals and four assists from Chad Costello. Fort Wayne, which has outscored Allen 10-7 in even-strength situations in the series, was led by two Garrett Thompson goals and three Alex Belzile assists.
“When playing 5-on-5, it’s been clear all series that we dominate. I don’t even think it’s been close when it’s 5-on-5,” Fort Wayne’s Shawn Szydlowski said. “We beat ourselves and we’ve been pretty good at that. But we’ve got to pull it together. Tomorrow could be our last game and I know nobody wants that to happen. Everyone is going to bring their best game and I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to bring the series back to Fort Wayne.”
The Komets are 2-0 in games during these playoffs in which they could be eliminated. Both came in the first round against Cincinnati, when Fort Wayne lost the first two games at Memorial Coliseum and then won 2 of 3 on the road.
“I thought we played a pretty good game, but we let special teams take (away) this game and that’s kind of the same story,” Schaafsma said. “But when we’re 5-on-5, I think we’re playing better hockey than them and we can’t be too sad about this loss. We have to forget about it as soon as possible.”
The Komets haven’t faced an elimination game on the road and they know they have to stay out of the penalty box.
“It think it’s evident that we have to stay out of the box,” Southorn said. “Everything they got was because of our penalties. In the second period, we got power plays … and they didn’t really get anything. But in the third period, we started taking penalties. We were gripping our sticks too tight and started taking penalties. They got all the momentum and that is a team over there that their power play has been great all year. Over the past few years, that’s how they’ve won championships. We recognize that. But sometimes we just get too hot-headed and take penalties. In the next game, we need to stay out of the box.”
Riley Gill was back in net for the Americans, after he took himself during Game 2 with a lower-body injury, but he didn’t make it through two periods. Jake Hildebrand, who stopped 35 shots in the Komets’ 2-1 victory on Thursday, replaced him and stopped all 17 shots he faced and will start Game 4.
Gill had the first great save of the game, kicking away a Trevor Cheek shot from 20 feet out to set off a 2-on-1 rush in the other direction, but Allen’s Dyson Stevenson missed the net. The Komets then broke down the other direction and Cody Sol hit the post.
The Americans opened the scoring after the ensuing faceoff, with league MVP Costello shooting the puck from the left boards, the puck caroming off the far post and coming to rest on the goal line, where Makowski skated behind goalie Pat Nagle to scoop it in at 6:54.
After Allen had eight of the first 11 shots, the Komets thought they had it tied when Kyle Thomas tucked the puck inside the right post and the goal light went on. But the referees determined that defenseman Matt Register stopped the puck from going all the way over the goal line and waved it off at 14:15.
The Komets started getting traffic in front of the net late in the period and it paid off with a Sol goal from 40 feet out to tie it at 1, after the puck was tipped to him by Mike Embach, who scored both Fort Wayne goals in Game 3.
Embach finished off a 2-on-1 to put Fort Wayne up 2-1 just 45 seconds into the second period. During a Fort Wayne power play at 3:15, Thompson skated the length of the ice and wristed the puck low on Gill for a 3-1 lead, shortly before Beaupre had to be helped off the ice because of the Arseneau hit. After the ensuing faceoff, Sol fought Arseneau. Beaupre returned to the bench for a short time later in the period, then left again and could be seen smashing his stick in the tunnel.
After Allen’s Gary Steffes scored by slipping a backhand underneath Nagle at 7:46, the Komets answered with goals by Thompson from 15 feet and Szydlowski at the end of a 2-on-1 rush for a 5-2 lead 11:17 into the second period.
Gill was then pulled by coach Steve Martinson with 14 saves on 19 shots. And things totally shifted into Allen’s favor in the third period, when it got three consecutive goals. Tristan King, a former Fort Wayne player, scored on a shot from 20 feet, during a power play at 1:16. Gregor Hanson netted a power-play goal on a shot from the right circle at 4:49. And Makowski scored at 10:33.
The Komets got some better offensive pressure late in the period and Hildebrand stopped a Cheek backhand from 10 feet at 17:37. In regulation time, the Komets outshot Allen 35-28.
Allen’s Eric Roy was stopped by Nagle on a shot from point-blank range 37 seconds into overtime. Fort Wayne’s Mason Geertsen dove to block a Costello shot toward an empty net at 3:00 to keep playing going, but the puck bounced off a few players before LaFontaine ended it.