Cole Fraser scored from a difficult angle in the corner with six-tenths of a second remaining to give the Toledo Walleye a 6-5 victory over the Komets in a wild back-and-forth game that saw eight goals and four lead changes in the third period Sunday at Toledo, Ohio.
Toledo’s T.J. Hensick had tied the game with 26 seconds remaining, from almost the same spot as Fraser’s shot at the Huntington Center, where a crowd of 5,848 was on hand.
“This is one that really stings because I believe that we should have won,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “It’s not one that I think we could have, but one we should have won. To have a lead with under a minute and allow two goals in regulation, it’s as tough of a loss as we’ve suffered here in recent years.”
That’s saying a lot because the Komets have had some recent heartbreakers, namely the 5-4 loss at Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Jan. 12 that culminated with the puck caroming off a seam in the boards to set up Logan Lambdin for a shot into an unguarded net with 52 seconds remaining.
The Fort Wayne goalie that night was Liam Hughes. On Sunday, it was Mario Culina, who stopped 39 shots, also allowing goals to Randy Gazzola, Brett Boeing, Brandon Schultz and Brandon Hawkins.
“I think it’s still about us battling for each other. If anything, the group showed resiliency and no quit until the end of the game,” said Shawn Szydlowski, whose Komets rallied from deficits three times. “It’s a tough place to win, especially for guys who haven’t gotten this kind of rivalry experience, but they’ve been close games and we’re just getting some tough bounces right now.”
For division-leading Toledo (24-8-2), Max Milosek stopped 25 shots and allowed two goals to Lynden McCallum and one each to Kellen Jones, Shawn Boudrias and Szydlowski.
Szydlowski had tied the game for second-place Fort Wayne (19-13-4) off a rebound 12:40 into the third period and McCallum netted a power-play goal from the right circle for a 5-4 lead at 15:06. Fort Wayne scored on 2 of 3 power plays. Toledo was 1 for 5.
The Komets lost forward Anthony Petruzzelli to an injury in the second period; he was cross-checked from behind by Butrus Ghafari and was in so much pain he had to crawl off the ice. Petruzzelli, the Komets’ captain, has never missed a game due to injury or illness – a run of 248 games – since joining the Komets as a rookie in 2018. The Komets weren't able to provide an update on Petruzzelli's health after the game.
The Ghafari hit came shortly after Szydlowski caught Keeghan Howdeshell in the head with a check. Neither play drew a penalty from referee Trevor Wohlford.
It was the first of six straight road games for the Komets, who next play Saturday at Worcester, Massachusetts, against the Railers.
Toledo had 14 of the game’s first 19 shots and Gazzola opened the scoring from the bottom of the right circle 12:57 into the first period with a shot that caromed off Fort Wayne’s Oliver Cooper and in. That broke a string of 101:19 in which Culina, a rookie, hadn’t allowed a goal, including Saturday’s 29-save shutout of the Cincinnati Cyclones.
McCallum tied it, during a Fort Wayne power play at 16:31, by smacking the rebound of a Zach Pochiro shot past Milosek.
Toledo’s Boeing scored a power-play goal, off a rebound 17:44 into the second period, ending a string of 19 straight successful penalty kills by Fort Wayne.
Fort Wayne’s Jones tied it with a shot from the blue line 18 seconds into the third period and, just 27 seconds later, Boudrias scored from the right circle after a Will Graber cross-ice pass.
But riding a wave of energy from its Mitchell Heard fighting Chays Ruddy, Toledo answered with a Schultz breakaway goal at 5:00 and a Hawkins goal from the right circle at 6:39.
Szydlowski tied it for the Komets off a rebound at 12:40, on a sequence set up by Boudrias’ no-look pass from behind the Toledo net. And McCallum netted a power-play goal from the right circle, giving Fort Wayne a 5-4 lead.
“Just complete chaos, that’s what that third period was. That’s the best way I can sum it up,” Toledo coach Dan Watson said on the Walleye’s BCSN TV broadcast. “I don’t think myself, our staff, our players drew up like that at the end of the game. I’m sure Fort Wayne didn’t either. But a win’s a win and on a Sunday here in Toledo, we’ll take it.”
Notes: The ECHL suspended the Cincinnati’s Jack Van Boekel five games for leaving the bench to join an altercation during the Komets’ 4-0 victory Saturday at Memorial Coliseum, where Culina had 29 saves for the shutout. And the Cyclones’ Jesse Schultz was fined an undisclosed amount for spearing Graber. ... With Blake Siebenaler and Marcus McIvor both in the American Hockey League, Connor Jones and Kellen Jones have been unveiled by the Komets as alternate captains.