Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Marco Roy looks to skate around Toledo's Ryan Obuchowski during Friday's playoff game at Memorial Coliseum.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 1:00 am
Komets can't afford letdown
Team has struggled after big victories throughout season
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Komets vs. Toledo
Best-of-7: Walleye lead 3-2
Game 1: Toledo 3, Komets 2
Game 2: Toledo 6, Komets 0
Game 3: Komets 2, Toledo 1 (OT)
Game 4: Toledo 5, Komets 1
Game 5: Komets 5, Toledo 3
Game 6: Today, 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum
Game 7: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Toledo*
Komets coach Gary Graham was asked Monday how he can avoid a letdown when it comes to his team's level of energy and adherence to its game plan, a fair question in a season that has seen it go back and forth, game to game in those respects.
“That's not going to happen,” Graham said sternly.
Simple and absolutely necessary if the Komets are to keep their season alive as they did with a 5-3 road victory Saturday over the Toledo Walleye.
The Komets brought the series back to Memorial Coliseum for a game 7:30 p.m. today. The stakes remain the same – Fort Wayne trails 3-2 in the best-of-7 Central Division semifinals – but confidence is now brimming.
“Going to Toledo, it's a tough place to play. Their crowd was buzzing and I thought the boys handled it well,” said Cody Sol, whose team won Game 3 at the Coliseum 2-1 in overtime on a Kevin Gibson goal but got dominated in the 5-1 home loss in Game 4. “Coming back home, we haven't been the best at home, but we're going to use the crowd to our advantage and come out with a win.”
Graham hasn't given any indication if he'll stick with the lineup decisions that helped get the victory Saturday, when he sat All-Star Justin Hodgman, Ryan Lowney and Craig Cescon, in favor of Mason Baptista and rookies Anthony Nellis and Cam Knight.
“I just thought it was time to shake things up,” Graham said. “For whatever reason, that's what my gut was telling me. The lineup changes don't take away from what the guys did on the ice. Looking at the film, we had over 30 shot blocks, guys were desperate and willing to do the things that we need to win games, and that's why we had success.”
After coming in to Saturday 1 for 17, the Komets' power play finally erupted, going 3 for 6 with goals from Baptista, Brady Shaw and J.C. Campagna, who netted his first series goal after ranking second in the ECHL with 35 regular-season goals.
“We did a better job of getting traffic in front of (Toledo goaltender Pat Nagle),” Graham said. “That's been a thing – we needed to get traffic in front of a very good goalie – and if you look at the video and how we scored our goals, there was always a good net-front presence. And we just executed, overall better. We worked hard to get the puck. They have a good (penalty kill) that's aggressive, and you've got to be able to skate to get the puck. Once you get it, you've got to make good, sharp plays, and I thought our passing was better leading up to the goals.”
It helped that Toledo was without one of its top playmakers and agitators, A.J. Jenks, who had an injury.
And a marvelous Zach Fucale save, sliding to his right, dropping his stick and gloving a Shane Berschbach shot with his blocker hand, also was pivotal in protecting Fort Wayne's first lead of the series.