Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Toledo's Ryan Obuchowski takes a shot on goal in the second period of Wednesday's game around the Komets' Ryan Lowney.
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Kevin Gibson, right, defends the Memorial Coliseum ice as the Toledo Walleye's Shane Berschbach skates ahead during the regular season.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets' J.C. Campagna takes a shot on goal around Toledo's Dylan Sadowy in the first period of Wednesday's game against Toledo at the Memorial Coliseum.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Komets’ Anthony Petruzzelli works to keep control of the puck away from Toledo’s Matt Register in the first period of Wednesday night’s Game 3 against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum.
Friday, April 19, 2019 1:00 am
K's regain confidence
Walleye's series lead far less formidable after overtime win
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Komets vs. Toledo
Central Division semifinals
Best-of-7: Walleye leads 2-1
Game 1: Toledo, 3-2
Game 2: Toledo, 6-0
Game 3: Komets win 2-1 (OT)
Game 4: Today, 8 p.m. at Coliseum
Game 5: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Toledo*
Game 6: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. at Coliseum*
Game 7: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Toledo*
It wasn't the Komets' best game of the season, but it may have been the one in which they showed the most heart.
They were seconds away from falling into a three-game hole in the Central Division semifinals, but they emerged with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Toledo Walleye on Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Toledo still has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, but Fort Wayne could even it up with a victory tonight at the Coliseum.
“We gave up that goal in the third period and it just shows so much about this group that we didn't quit. The guys battled to get that goal with 22 seconds left to save our season,” said Kevin Gibson, who followed Shawn Szydlowski's tying goal with the winner on a shot from 50 feet out in extra time. “Going down 3-0 in the series, that would have been tough, but 2-1 is a lot more manageable.
“But we still have a lot more work to do.”
Gibson certainly isn't known for his goal scoring; he had only two in the regular season, hadn't previously scored a playoff goal in four years as a professional and hadn't netted an overtime goal since his first college game for Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2011.
“It felt great. I can't even explain how good that felt,” said Gibson, who played last season for Toledo. “This group deserves it, and hopefully we can carry this momentum into Friday, play smart hockey and keep this playoff run going here.”
The Komets needed to play smarter hockey and get breakthrough performances after the series' first two games – 3-2 and 6-0 losses at the Huntington Center – and that happened Wednesday.
“It was exciting to watch the guys celebrate Gibby in there,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “(Captain Jamie Schaafsma) stood up and said, 'This is a guy who does it all the right way. He never complains. He's always out there working hard.' To see a guy like that get rewarded is always special.”
The Komets had their fewest penalties of the series (four for eight minutes), allowed their fewest goals, stopped Pat Nagle's shutout streak at 121:04 and won more faceoffs. Graham said faceoffs were a pivotal part of the victory because they enabled the Komets to kill all four Toledo power plays and set up Szydlowski's tying goal, which came after a scramble for the puck on the rebound of a J.C. Campagna shot.
“It was great for the guys to get the (penalty kill) going,” said Graham, whose team had allowed four power-play goals in Game 2. “If you win the first draw on the PK, your rate of success is so much higher than when you lose it. I give a lot of credit to the guys – the centers (Schaafsma, Justin Hodgman and Marco Roy) did a much better job in the faceoff dot – and that's a big thing for us right now in terms of special teams.”
Nagle and Fort Wayne's Zach Fucale had 41 saves, but Fucale earned rave reviews for his performance against so many high-quality scoring chances.
“It was great, tremendous,” Graham said. “I thought both goalies played extremely well. (Fucale) saved a point-blank shot when they were up 1-nothing and (we) had a turnover, and it was just a monster save. Again, I thought both goalies played tremendously well and that's just the way the series has gone.”
The Komets still need to cut down on turnovers – one of them set up Toledo's Zach Gallant for a goal Wednesday – and improve a power play that was 0 for 6 and is now 1 for 12 in the series.
Game 5 will be at Toledo at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Note: Former Komets player Rob Murray, Tulsa's coach and director of hockey operations, was voted the ECHL General Manager of the Year by league coaches.