Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Anthony Petruzzelli crashes Indy goaltender Matt Tomkins as Zach Miskovic trails the play Friday night. The Komets, wearing special Blacksnakes jerseys to honor the 122nd Fighter Wing, broke a five-game skid.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Anthony Petruzzelli, middle, takes a shot on Indy Fuel goaltender Matt Tomkins, right, as defenseman Zach Miskovic, left, trails the play at Memorial Coliseum on Friday night.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Justin Hodgman, center, swipes at the puck at Memorial Coliseum as Indy Fuel goaltender Matt Tomkins, right, gets ready to make a save and Connor Moynihan, left, tries to defend Friday night.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Justin Kea, left, steers the puck up the ice while he's defended by the Indy Fuel's Olivier Lavelle, right, at Memorial Coliseum on Friday night.
Saturday, November 03, 2018 1:00 am
Komets 5 Indy 2
Key players return, help K's stop skid
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Komets vs. Kalamazoo
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Memorial Coliseum
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM
The fans were working themselves into a tizzy at the prospect of Shawn Szydlowski, one of the best players in franchise history, perhaps returning to Fort Wayne. Meanwhile, the Komets were breaking out of their funk, even if they had to do it with a different moniker – Blacksnakes.
Wearing new jerseys, and with a different name, to honor the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, the Komets lifted off to their finest game of the season and secured a 5-2 victory over the Indy Fuel that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Tonight against Kalamazoo, the Komets will again be the Blacksnakes as they conclude Military Appreciation Weekend at Memorial Coliseum, where Friday 8,009 fans were on hand to see captain Jamie Schaafsma and forward Garrett Ladd return after missing four and five games, respectively.
Schaafsma, who had been out with an upper-body injury, opened the scoring with a shot from 15 feet out.
“We knew this was a big weekend for us to turn it around,” Schaafsma said. “We really had no choice. It was good to see us come out in the first period like that. I thought we played a lot more of an aggressive forecheck and didn't give them too much. We were keeping our third guy high and playing the way we expect to play.
“ It was good to see and guys are starting to jell, you're starting to see some confidence come in and it's definitely a step in the right direction.”
The Komets (2-5-0) have gotten both their victories against the Fuel (4-4-0).
Ladd, who had missed five games with a concussion, made it 2-0 with a power-play goal on a shot from the left circle as Fort Wayne had the first 13 shots of the game.
Thanks to a Phelix Martineau pass, Fort Wayne's Marco Roy was alone in front of the net and able to swivel and pop the puck in for a 3-0 lead at 7:16 of the second period.
And Ladd scored his second goal of the night on a breakaway for a 4-0 lead.
“It's always good to get that (losing streak) off the back,” said Ladd, who also had an assist. “But the bottom line is it comes down to the team here. We were in a little bit of a funk. We worked hard during practice and battled hard through adversity. And you can't ask for much more than that performance there, so hopefully that puts us back on track and we keep winning games.”
After Indy's Neil Manning netted a power-play goal, J.C. Campagna scored a breakaway goal in the third period. Lukas Hafner stopped 33 shots for the victory and Indy's Matt Tomkins stopped 32 shots.
Fort Wayne defenseman Cody Sol could face a suspension after he received a major penalty for boarding in the waning minutes.
As for Szydlowski, the ECHL's MVP and leading scorer last season with the Komets, reached by The Journal Gazette, he said he hopes to have a decision about his next destination Sunday after he parted ways with his Norwegian team, Frisk Asker.
“I'm deciding if I'm going to stay in the U.S. or go to another place in Europe,” Szydlowski said, adding that he didn't “want to cause any distraction to the (Komets) this weekend.”
Were the Komets to pursue Szydlowski, who has played five seasons in Fort Wayne, they would have to cut ties with one of their four veterans, Schaafsma, Sol, Justin Hodgman or Garret Ross.
Asked about Szydlowski, Komets general manager David Franke said: “No comment, I'm just focused on the current team and getting through this weekend.”
Szydlowski had 31 goals and 76 points in 64 games last season, then added four goals and 17 points in 17 playoff games for the Komets. With Frisk Asker, he had four goals and seven points in 11 games.