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The Journal Gazette

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma celebrates after beating Quad City goalie C.J. Motte to score a goal in the second period of their ECHL playoff game Saturday at Memorial Coliseum. Shaafsma's goal gave the Komets a 3-1 lead.

Sunday, April 16, 2017 1:00 am

Komets 3, Quad City 1

Physical play pays off

Komets take care of Coliseum ice to take 2-0 lead over Mallards

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

ECHL playoffs

Komets vs. Quad City Mallards

Central Division semifinals

Best of 7

Komets lead 2-0

Game 1: Komets 4, Quad City 3

Game 2: Komets 3, Quad City 1

Game 3: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Quad City

Game 4: 8 p.m. Friday at Quad City

Game 5: 8 p.m. Saturday at Quad City*

Game 6: 7:30 p.m. April 24 at Coliseum*

Game 7: 7:30 p.m. April 26 at Coliseum*

*-If necessary

Physical play? Check. Good goaltending? Yep. Opportunistic goal scoring? Absolutely.

And, most importantly, taking advantage of home ice? The Komets did that, too, cementing a 3-1 victory Saturday night in front of 6,065 fans at Memorial Coliseum.

The Komets lead the best-of-7 first-round playoff series with the Quad City Mallards 2-0. It continues Wednesday and Friday at the iWireless Center in Moline, Illinois.

“We know they're a team that likes to throw a bunch of pucks at the net. So far, in the first two games, not only have we done a great job blocking shots, but we've done a great job clearing pucks out, and being physical, strong and tough in front of the net,” defenseman Jason Binkley said after the Komets outshot the Mallards 37-18 on Saturday and 74-31 in the first two games combined. “If we can continue to do that in the rest of the series, then we should have no problem shutting them down and not allowing them to score goals.”

A sweep of the first two games wasn't surprising, considering the Komets were an ECHL-best 28-7-1 at home in the regular season, and the Mallards were 20-16-0 on the road.

The Komets have beaten the Mallards in 10 of 14 games this season. But Game 1 wasn't easy with the Komets needing to rebound from a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 on a Gabriel Desjardins goal.

The Komets dialed up their physical play Saturday and it paid off with a 2-0 lead on a goal by Mike Cazzola, who took advantage of a Shawn Szydlowski cross-ice pass by backing his way through the right circle and snapping a shot beneath goaltender C.J. Motte, and Mike Embach's slap shot from the left circle.

Quad City's Jack Nevins scored from 15 feet during a power play 19:24 into the first period. But another Szydlowski pass, from behind the net and through the crease, set up captain Jamie Schaafsma for a power-play goal and a 3-1 lead 15:22 into the second period.

“We had 10 hits in the first period, which is really good for us. We dropped off a little bit in the second period, but we ramped it back up in the third,” said coach Gary Graham, who has a 24-17 playoff record and is halfway to winning his fifth of eight series over four years with the Komets. “For us, the better we are on the walls and the more aggressive we are, typically the more turnovers we get and the more success we have in the offensive zone. So that's a big part of us having success – and it doesn't matter which opponent it is – the key for us is our forecheck, and I thought we did a pretty good job overall, for 60 minutes.”

Top-seeded Toledo has a 2-0 lead over Kalamazoo in the other Central Division series.

Cazzola, the rookie selected MVP by his teammates April 8, has two goals and four points for the Komets in the playoffs, giving him eight goals and 15 points in his last nine games. Szydlowski has one goal and three points. The line of Desjardins, Travis Ewaynk and Garrett Thompson has two goals and six points.

“It's nice to see everybody getting a chance to play and everybody doing their jobs,” Fort Wayne goalie Pat Nagle said. “Everybody is contributing. We've got balanced scoring and every line is finding a way to do something good for the team.”

Quad City has been paced by the one goal and three points of Alex Petan, whose high stick to the face of Will Weber in Game 1 left the defenseman needing to play with a full face shield Saturday.

jcohn@jg.net