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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets right wing Shawn Szydlowski takes a shot at the goal in the first period against Toledo on Friday night.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Garrett Thompson tries to battle through the Toledo defensemen Beau Schmitz, left and Patrick McCarron on Friday right.

Saturday, December 02, 2017 1:00 am

Komets 3, Toledo 2

K's rally past Walleye

Szydlowski breaks shutout, then scores in shootout

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Even the best laid plans can be humbled by injuries and illnesses – and the pressure of roughly 2,000 stuffed animals.

The Komets spent all week preparing for the rival Toledo Walleye, hoping for a win and, maybe, taking for granted that they'd get at least a goal on Teddy Bear Night, when the fans at Memorial Coliseum get to hurl stuffed animals onto the ice for the nonprofit Disorderly Bear Den.

They got their victory – 3-2 in an overtime shootout in which Shawn Szydlowski netted the winner in front of 7,495 fans – but it certainly wasn't easy after captain Jamie Schaafsma fell ill, Gabriel Desjardins tweaked his groin and Dennis Kravchenko suffered a back injury. And the Komets were already without Justin Hodgman (shoulder) and Artur Tyanulin and Marco Roy, who are in the higher-level American Hockey League, so the lineup certainly wasn't what the Komets had in mind when they designed the roster last summer with an eye at bettering, in particularly, the Walleye.

“We had three great days of practice and everything we practiced got changed,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “Everything got switched up. Everything. It's frustrating. But these are the cards you've got to play out. But that can't be an excuse. They can say the same things over there in (the Toledo) locker room. They're without guys like (A.J.) Jenks and (Shane) Berschbach in their lineup.”

The Walleye scored the only two goals of the first period: Kyle Bonis scored on a breakaway, and Tyler Barnes' pass out of the corner set up Erik Bradford for a one-timer in front. And Toledo goaltender Matej Machovsky, who stopped 35 saves in the game, stopped Szydlowski and Garrett Thompson on breakaways to keep it at 2-0 through two periods.

In the third, though, things changed as the Komets' makeshift lineup jelled in front of goalie Michael Houser (18 saves).

“The first goal was exactly what we've been harping and preaching and that's 'ugly offense,' ” Graham said, referencing the Ryan Culkin shot that caromed off Machovsky and onto the stick of Szydlowski, who held off defenseman Patrick McCarron and swept the puck in at 3:45. “'Shoot far pad, off the rush, and crash the back door.' That's exactly how Szydlowski scores and it couldn't have been a better goal for our team because it re-emphasizes that the simple play (works). But sometimes it (seems) too easy and guys just don't want to do it.”

Szydlowski kept the building energized by dropping the gloves to fight Parker Reno just 36 seconds after scoring. Culkin tied it at 2 with a shot from the left circle that slipped underneath the crossbar at 5:09.

“We knew we didn't want to be shut out on Teddy Bear Toss night,” Szydlowski said. “That wouldn't be a good thing, making everybody walk right back out of the building with those things. So we wanted to get that one, and I think that's what slowed any momentum they had. It's a 10-minute break scooping all those things up, and our fans are now happy and we were able to get another one quick and go on to win.”

Toledo outshot Fort Wayne 2-1 in the 3-on-3 overtime, and Szydlowski netted the only goal of the overtime shootout. Fort Wayne and Toledo came into the night as two of five ECHL teams not to participate in shootouts this season.

By coming back from the two-goal deficit, the Komets improved to 3-1-0 this season against Toledo, which ousted them from the playoffs last season. Toledo had come into the night 9-0-0 when leading after the first period. The Komets are now 1-5-1 when trailing at the first intermission.