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The Journal Gazette

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Shawn Szydlowski, left, punches Cincinnati's Shawn O'Donnell during one of four fights in the first period of their game on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Cincinnati's Arvin Atwal, center left, wraps up Komets forward Kyle Thomas as Thomas brawls with Jordan Sims during a first-period melee on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Will Weber, left, flips the puck past the head of Cincinnati's Shane Walsh during the first period of their game on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Shawm Szydlowski, left, loads up to punch Cincinnati's Shawn O'Donnell during one of four first-period fights on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

Thursday, December 29, 2016 7:39 pm

Komets fight to victory

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

With so many injured players, tonight wouldn’t have been pegged as a night they would drop the gloves to fight often.

But fight they did.

There were five fracases in the Komets’ 4-3 victory over Cincinnati, as the teams racked up 90 penalty minutes on a day in which Fort Wayne secured two new players to join the team later in the week.

Captain Jamie Schaafsma’s power-play goal 16:36 into the third period was the difference for the Komets, who scored on 2 of 6 opportunities with the man-advantage and were outshot 32-30.

While it wasn’t the smooth victory they would have liked – the Komets (18-8-3) were tied in the third period – they have won 5 of 6 games.

After playing dismal first periods in back-to-back games – a 6-1 loss to Brampton last Friday and an 8-6 come-from-behind victory over Indy on Tuesday – the Komets had a stronger start by scoring twice on their first four shots in front of 6,712 spectators.

Gabriel Desjardins opened the scoring, just after a Cincinnati penalty expired, by snapping the puck from the left circle into the far side of the net at 5:19. Just 35 seconds later, Shawn Szydlowski scored from 40 feet out for his fifth goal in four periods.

The Cylones (12-12-4) tallied 10 of the ensuing 12 shots but couldn’t get the puck past goalie Garrett Bartus. And with 11 seconds left in the first period, Cincinnati’s Dominic Zombo bowled over Kyle Follmer, inciting a 10-player brawl. Before the period ended, there were more fisticuffs with Szydlowski vs. Shawn O’Donnell and Dan Milan vs. Seth Ambroz.

(Video highlights are above.)

After Fort Wayne’s Stephon Thorne was penalized by referee Stephen Thomson for instigating a second-period fight with Arvin Atwal, Bartus foiled Peter Leblanc’s shot from point-blank range. Just after the Thorne penalty expired, though, Ambroz netted a 25-foot shot for the Cyclones.

The Komets quickly reestablished their two-goal lead on an 8-foot power-play shot by Kyle Thomas, who had failed to score from the same distance earlier in the game, but Cincinnati’s Shane Walsh answered before a fight between 5-foot-10 Mike Embach and 6-4 Jaynen Rissling.

With Jason Binkley serving a double-minor penalty for high-sticking, O’Donnell tied it at 3 by chipping a backhand into the top of the net 8:47 into the third period. But it was the Cyclones’ turn to take a bad penalty – Jacob Graves cross-checked Milan into the boards – and Schaafsma’s subsequent power-play goal from the right circle gave Fort Wayne a 4-3 lead with 3:24 left in the game.

Hindered by injuries, players being called up to the American Hockey League and inconsistent play, the Komets made two trades before the game and acquired goaltender P.J. Musico from Greenville and defenseman Kyle Flemington from Wheeling – both for an undisclosed amount of cash.

Flemington had one goal in 19 games with Wheeling this season. Musico had played one game with Greenville, going 1-0-0 with a .921 save percentage, after he split last season between Greenville and Quad City. Neither was in Fort Wayne yet tonight.

The Komets now have four goalies on the roster, including Eric Hartzell and the clear No. 1, Pat Nagle, who suffered a high ankle sprain after playing four games.

"Musico is a kid we’ve been looking at the last few weeks. We’re still not totally happy with the goaltending. We’re going to give this kid a chance to see what he can do," general manager David Franke said. "For the short term, we’ll go with three goalies, (not including) Pat Nagle, who is still probably a couple weeks away."

The Komets were also without Garrett Thompson (lower body), Cody Sol (knee), Gabriel Beaupre (concussion), Taylor Crunk (ankle), Pat Nagle (ankle), Bobby Shea (Rochester of AHL) and Trevor Cheek (Tucson of AHL). Crunk and Beaupre could be back next week, assuming they continue progressing well.

The Komets play host to the Toledo Walleye in the annual New Year’s Eve game at the Coliseum on Saturday night.