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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Kyle Thomas of the Komets has a shot against Toledo goalie Jake Paterson but can't punch it in, 2nd period, Saturday.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Mike Cazzola of the Komets leads the pack down the ice, 2nd period, Saturday.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Mason Baptista of the Komets looks for an opening as Dane Walters of Toledo gives chase, 2nd period, Saturday.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Tylor Spink of Toledo pins Shawn Szydlowski of the Komets on the boards, 2nd period, Saturday.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Kyle Thomas of the Komets tries to get by Nolan Zajac of Toledo, 2nd period, Saturday.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Mike Embach of the Komets gets hit from behind by Tylor Spink of Toledo, 2nd period, Saturday.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Play stops as Komets goalie Garrett Bartus recovers after stopping a power play shot from Toledo, 2nd period, Saturday.

Saturday, December 31, 2016 7:59 pm

Komets sputter to New Year's Eve loss

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

If the Komets resolve to do anything in 2017, it had better be to cut down on their penalties.

After peppering the net of the league-leading Toledo Walleye for the bulk of the night, the Komets got the last five penalties of the game from referee Chris Pontes and gave up goals to both of the Spink twins – Tylor and Tyson – before Shane Berschbach’s empty-netter finalized a 3-1 loss.

Tylor Spink scored during a power play 12:29 into the second period with Jamie Schaafsma in the penalty box for hooking. With Schaafsma, the captain, having left the box 18 seconds before, Tyson Spink netted the winning goal 11:17 into the third period.

A crowd of 9,896 was in attendance as the Komets dropped to 40-15-5 all-time in New Year’s Eve games at Memorial Coliseum. That includes a 4-7-0 mark against teams from Toledo.

The Komets, who had won five of their previous six games, came into the night as the second most penalized team in the ECHL with 20.5 minutes per game, just behind Wichita’s 21.2. They are 0-2-1 this season against the Walleye, which scored on 1 of 5 power plays.

But the Komets got off to a strong start by tallying eight of the first nine shots on goal.

That included a Toledo power play, in which it failed to get a shot, seconds after which Kyle Thomas got credit for a wild Fort Wayne goal. He shot the puck into the boards behind the Toledo net and it took a wild hop to the front of the goal, where it caromed off netminder Jake Paterson and defenseman Jacob MacDonald before going in for a 1-0 lead at 7:12.

The Komets continued to possess the puck heavily – they had 15 of the first 19 shots – and Paterson foiled Thomas from point-blank range just after a 5-on-3 power play expired 55 seconds into the second period.

Inserted into the lineup were defenseman Kyle Flemington and goalie P.J. Musico, who were acquired Thursday for undisclosed amounts of cash from, respectively, Wheeling and Greenville. The Komets had planned to allow their goalies to battle it out for position on the depth chart, but Eric Hartzell made the decisions easier by packing up his gear and leaving to play in Germany.

"He just made the best deal he could make (in Germany). He’s played in Europe before. I wish him good luck. Maybe things will work out better for him than they did here," said general manager David Franke, adding Hartzell was likely to be traded or released anyway.

Hartzell, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey while at Quinnipiac in 2013, had been hyped as a major offseason acquisition that would take the pressure off Pat Nagle. Hartzell had a 7-7-2 record with a 3.41 goals-against average, a .888 save percentage and one shutout in 19 games.

Nagle, who has played four games this season, is expected to be back from a high ankle sprain in a couple of weeks, at which point the Komets will likely test out carrying three goalies. Garrett Bartus, who was the MVP of the lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League with Macon last season, and who has exceeded expectations since being signed by Fort Wayne Nov. 29, played in a seventh straight game and stopped 23 of 25 shots.

Bartus’ best save came 4:39 into the second period on Nolan Zajac’s shot from 13 feet out, preserving the 1-0 lead, but Toledo’s Tylor Spink tied it from the left circle at 12:29, giving him 33 points, two more than Mike Cazzola for the ECHL rookie lead.

While playing short-handed early in the third period, the Komets had several great chances to retake the lead but Brady Vail was stopped from 8 feet, Mike Embach hit the post and Thomas shot into the pads of Paterson (31 saves) from 12 feet.

Tyson Spink’s goal came from the right circle.

The Komets were without seven regulars: Nagle, Garrett Thompson (lower body), Cody Sol (knee), Gabriel Beaupre (concussion), Taylor Crunk (ankle), Trevor Cheek (with Tucson of the American Hockey League) and Bobby Shea (Rochester of AHL).

jcohn@jg.net