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The Journal Gazette

  • Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles Colorado’s Joey Ratelle and the Komets’ Daniel Maggio fight during warm-ups before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Sunday night in Loveland, Colo. On Monday, the ECHL suspended Ratelle and Maggio for three games.

  • Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles Komets defenseman Cody Sol, right, and Michael Joly of the Colorado Eagles talk trash in the midst of the pre-game fracas that broke out between the teams Sunday in Loveland, Colorado, before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 1:00 am

ECHL Playoffs

2 Komets, 2 Eagles suspended

Pregame melee leads to fines of coaches, teams

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

LOVELAND, Colo. – The Mountain Division is known for its physical brand of hockey. And one of its members, the Colorado Eagles, rode that toughness to the Kelly Cup championship last season.

But the Komets certainly showed Sunday, in a 3-2 victory at the Budweiser Events Center, that they weren’t going to back down.

“We have a swagger to ourselves. And we’re confident in playing that way. The biggest thing is not crossing the line,” Komets coach Gary Graham said, after the hardest-hitting game of the year, one that tied the Western Conference finals at one game apiece.

The hitting started in pregame warm-ups, as Dennis Kravchenko fought the Eagles’ Gabriel Verpaelst, and the Komets’ Daniel Maggio fought Joey Ratelle.

The ECHL hit back hard Monday: Kravchenko and Verpaelst were suspended five games, though they served one apiece already, and Maggio and Ratelle got three games.

They were also fined undisclosed amounts, as were Graham and Colorado coach Aaron Schneekloth. Both teams were also fined.

Losing Maggio is big for the Komets. He has six goals and eight points in 10 playoff games. But the Komets are getting Trevor Cheek back from Tucson of the American Hockey League for Game 3.

“There were some emotions that maybe got away from some guys, but you’ve got to walk that fine line,” Graham said. “Both teams are physical. Both teams have swagger. It’s two alpha dogs in the rink and trying to out-will each other, and sometimes that stuff’s going to happen (like it did before the game).”

The impetus for all the rough stuff was the way Colorado had bowled over Fort Wayne goalie Michael Houser twice during Game 1, a 3-2 overtime victory by the Eagles. Houser was unable to play Sunday, and Garrett Bartus made 19 saves for the victory in his first action since April 8.

“It was just making sure we were standing up for ourselves,” Komets defenseman Cody Sol said. “They obviously came after Houser, and we didn’t like the way they did it. It’s a locker room full of teammates here. If they go after one of us, then they come after all of us. It just shows the team chemistry and the team morale here.”

The Komets scored on 2 of 8 power plays Sunday. The Eagles were 0 for 4.

As the series heads back to Fort Wayne for Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. Game 3 at Memorial Coliseum, it looks as if the team that is most able to play physically, but stay out of the penalty box, will have the advantage.

“I started out my career here in Colorado and in Ontario (California) and it’s tough hockey,” Sol said, “but (the Coliseum) is The Jungle, and we’ll play Jungle hockey, so we’re not going to step down from anything and we’ll hold our own.”

Note: The Komets released their home schedule for the 2018-19 season Monday. The 67th season opens Saturday, Oct. 20, against the rival Kalamazoo Wings. The 26-week season will finish at home Sunday, April 7, against the Wheeling Nailers.

Included in the home slate are nine Fridays, 13 Saturdays, five Sundays and six Wednesdays. There is also a rare Monday home game, which lands on New Year’s Eve, and two Thursday games including the traditional Thanksgiving home game. No Tuesday home games are scheduled.

The Komets will play host to Kalamazoo the most at eight times. Cincinnati, Indy and Toledo each make five trips to Fort Wayne while Wheeling and Wichita each make three visits. Brampton is in town twice and Kansas City, Rapid City, Tulsa, Utah and Adirondack each make one appearance.

Fort Wayne home start times remain unchanged with 8 p.m. Friday faceoffs. Monday through Thursday and Saturday games begin at 7:30 p.m. Sundays continue to carry a 5 p.m. start.

jcohn@jg.net