ALLEN, Texas – Defenseman Cody Corbett sat out 11 straight games. The Komets needed him on the ice, though, because they wanted more offense. They also needed Corbett to make sure he wasn’t a defensive liability getting get caught up the ice.
In the Komets’ 2-1 victory over the defending champion Allen Americans on Thursday night, Corbett did all that was asked of him.
He set up a goal with a shot from the blue line that ricocheted off goaltender Jake Hildebrandt before Mike Embach put the rebound into the net for the first of his two goals. Corbett had seven shots on goal – more than any other player in the game – and scored a third-period goal that was waved off because Jamie Schaafsma had run into the goalie outside of the crease.
"It felt really good," said Corbett, who has two assists in three playoffs games for the Komets, who are still down 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals that continue tonight at the Allen Event Center. "It’s a tough situation when you have so many good defensemen on the team and some guys have to sit out."
Corbett, who had five goals and 19 points in 34 regular-season games, was pulled from the lineup after the Komets dropped the first two games of the first round to the Cincinnati Cyclones at Memorial Coliseum. The Komets wound up winning the next two on the road and won that series in seven, a feat they would like to repeat against the Americans.
"After those first two games against Cincy in the first round, they took me out. I wasn’t playing very well," said Corbett, a prospect of the Colorado Avalanche who played 23 games with San Antonio of the American Hockey League this season.
"I had been up and down a lot with San Antonio and going up and down like that is tough on your body (because you’re not always playing). I can’t make excuses, but those last couple of weeks I got in shape again. I did what I needed to do to get myself back in the lineup."
To make room for Corbett, coach Gary Graham opted not to play Justin Hamonic. Defenseman Randy Cure also sat out.
As important as it was for Embach to score after he’d been scoreless in the first two games, and for Corbett to shine, it was equally important for the Komets to shut down Allen’s star players. Chad Costello, the league’s leading scorer and MVP, was scoreless. So, too, were Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Vincent Arseneau and Gregor Hanson.
Only Gary Steffes was able to solve goalie Pat Nagle, who had 27 saves for the Komets.
"It’s about playing the game the right way," Graham said. "We finally played the game the right way. If we do that, it should be a low-scoring game if we defend well. Allen is playing extremely good hockey right now defending, so they should be tight games 5-on-5."
The Komets have a lot of respect for Allen’s power play and its ability to transition from defense to offense seamlessly.
Allen was scoreless in its only Game 3 power play – Fort Wayne has outscored Allen 6-4 in even-strength play – and the Americans didn’t get many odd-man rushes.
While Corbett was caught flat-footed in the first two games against Cincinnati, he was part of a solid defensive effort Thursday.
"We’ve been working on our gaps and staying up against star forwards and not giving them anything," Corbett said. "When we do that in practice, it transitions to the game. It’s one of those things where if you work on it during the series like that, when they come toward you with pressure and quick transitions then we’re ready for it."
Allen coach Steve Martinson, however, believes the Komets’ defense is a liability that can be exploited.
"I think one of their weaknesses is down low," he said. "We’ve got to get more pucks down low because the times we had the opportunity to get it in, we didn’t do it. It’s one game. I think we’ve got some guys that are ready to go Saturday."