Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets players celebrate after Trevor Cheek, center, scored the first goal during the Komets vs. Wheeling hockey game at the Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. GALLERY
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets' Gabriel Desjardins, right, tries to stop Wheeling's Danny Fick from getting to the puck during the Komets vs. Wheeling hockey game at the Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. GALLERY
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets' Shawn Szydlowski, right, rushes the puck to the goal as Wheeling's Garrett Meurs tries to slow him down during the Komets vs. Wheeling hockey game at the Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. GALLERY
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets' Trevor Cheek, top, checks Wheeling's Nick Sorkin against the wall during the Komets vs. Wheeling hockey game at the Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. GALLERY
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Both teams scramble to get the puck at the goal during the Komets vs. Wheeling hockey game at the Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. GALLERY
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets' Mike Embach moves the puck across the ice during the Komets vs. Wheeling hockey game at the Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. GALLERY
Sunday, February 26, 2017 5:33 pm
Cheek stays hot, so do Komets
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette
Komets forward Trevor Cheek had been in the ear of coach Gary Graham, telling him he’d be more productive as a center than a wing.
Graham made the change going into the weekend and Cheek rewarded him with seven goals in the span of 49 hours, including two goals and an assist today as the Komets defeated the Wheeling Nailers 4-3 in front of 7,261 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“I put him back to center and I should have listened to him when I had him on the wing,” said Graham, whose Komets have won three straight games. “He wasn’t really doing much. Sometimes as a coach, you’ve got to realize when a player is smarter than you. He was smarter than me, and he made the most of it.”
Despite not being affiliated with an NHL team this season, the Komets have had seven players called up to the higher-level American Hockey League. Cheek was one of them and, with the way he’s playing, it’s tough to imagine him not getting grabbed again.
His linemate, Shawn Szydlowski, who has also had some time in the AHL this season, has been a big help with a goal and five points in the last three games for the Komets, who are on an 11-2-3 run and now have won seven games in which they trailed by two or more goals.
(Video highlights from the game are above.)
The Komets are 2-1-0 this season against the Nailers, who lost to the Allen Americans in the Kelly Cup Finals last season, and they will meet again next Saturday and Sunday at the Coliseum.
The Komets (33-15-7) remain eight points back of Toledo for both the division and overall ECHL lead.
“It’s big,” Szydlowski said of the weekend, before which Graham had challenged the Komets to try and play more dominant hockey. “It seems like we’re always chasing Toledo, almost every year, but we’re getting closer with every two points we get. They ended up winning again tonight, but we’ve got to keep doing our jobs. We can only control what we can control. As of right now, we got six out of six (possible) points this weekend and that’s great.”
The Komets played a more physical style than usual Sunday, racking up a season-best 13 hits in the second period.
“That’s our type of game and when we throw the body around, there aren’t too many teams that are going to be able to deal with it,” Szydlowski said.
Wheeling’s Cody Wydo opened the scoring 10:07 into the first period with a shot from the bottom of the left circle, after Garrett Meurs’ pass from behind the net with Kyle Flemington in the penalty box for boarding.
Meurs, who played 98 games for the Komets between 2014-16, potted a goal on Wheeling’s next shot, from 35 feet out to make it 2-0. It was Meurs’ 20th goal, a career best in his four-year professional career.
Cheek netted his second unassisted goal in as many nights for the Komets at 13:21, skating out of the right corner trying to keep control of a puck that was bouncing to the height of his knees, then smacking it past goalie Sean Maguire. Cheek, who had a hat trick in the Komets’ 6-0 victory over the Wichita Thunder on Saturday, has 15 goals and 25 points in 22 games with the Komets this season, while also playing 20 games with Tucson of the AHL.
Seconds after Maguire’s glove had foiled a Brett Perlini shot from point-blank range, the Wheeling netminder couldn’t prevent Mason Baptista from netting a power-play goal off a rebound 1:03 into the second period. It was atonement for Baptista, who had hit the post with a first-period shot. Wheeling’s penalty-killing unit came into the game ranked last among the ECHL’s 22 teams with a success rate of 75.6 percent, while Fort Wayne’s power play was ranked seventh at 21.4 percent. The Komets scored on 2 of 3 power plays.
The Komets’ lead didn’t last long. Wheeling’s Johnny Daniels made it 3-2 by scoring off a rebound at 4:55, though the Komets argued goaltender Pat Nagle had been interfered with before the shot. Nagle recovered to freeze a shot from Michael Webster at the end of a 2-on-1 rush at 8:13.
Wheeling’s Ryan Segalla got a roughing penalty at 10:39, after he drove Szydlowski from behind into the goalpost. Szydlowski made him pay on the ensuing power play when a blast from the left circle that caromed off Maguire and onto the stick of Gabriel Desjardins, who scored into an open net to tie it at 3.
Cheek made it 4-3 at 14:16 – it was his fifth goal in five periods – on a 35-foot wrist shot, after which Maguire was pulled from the game, having stopped 16 of 20 shots, and replaced by Doug Carr. The Komets have chased the opposing goalie in back-to-back games.
The Komets’ lineup was unchanged from Saturday’s 6-0 victory over the Wichita Thunder, in which Garrett Bartus had a 28-save shutout, meaning they were without captain Jamie Schaafsma (finger), Kyle Thomas (Cleveland of AHL), Mike Cazzola (Binghamton of AHL), Bobby Shea (Rochester of AHL), Will Weber (lower body) and Gabriel Beaupre (concussion).
For the second straight night, the Komets wore special pink jerseys that were auctioned off as part of the annual “Pink the Rink” initiative that raises awareness and money for the Vera Bradley Foundation’s fight against breast cancer. Cheek’s jersey sold for the most, $1,639, followed by Szydlowski’s ($1,001) and Cody Sol’s ($1,000).