The Komets and Allen Americans hadn’t met since 2012 – in another league – before the Western Conference finals began.
Even though the Americans have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, thanks to a 5-3 victory Friday and a 3-2 overtime victory Sunday, this series has already been a memorable one. There have been four fights, 11- and 10-player post-whistle scrums, and Game 2 was preceded by a wild scene in which all 36 players almost came to blows during warm-ups.
The referees, Stephen Reneau and Tyler Puddifant, weren’t yet on the ice to see Allen’s Dyson Stevenson fire the puck at an opposing player and Fort Wayne’s Gabriel Beaupre returned the favor. Then, Allen’s Spencer Asuchak skated behind Spencer Martin and gouged him with a stick, sending the backup goaltender sprawling to the ice.
What ensued was mostly shouting at center ice, but it set the tone for the game.
"Honestly, I think it was (started) on their part," said Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma, who captained Allen to the ECHL title last season. "Marty definitely didn’t cross the red line there. You get someone who slewfoots our backup goalie, we’re not just going to stand by. I think that’s garbage.
"You can see them acting like they’re patrolling the red line, like they’re running security there. I think it’s them probably trying to get us off our game, and I don’t think it really worked. I think it got everyone more heated to beat these guys, a little more motivated. So we’re not really going to worry about it too much."
The ECHL’s vice president of hockey operations, Joe Ernst, saw warmups from the press box and could assess fines or suspensions before Thursday’s Game 3 in Allen, Texas.
After the puck dropped Sunday, Fort Wayne’s Mason Geertsen fought Justin Courtnall, Jordon Southorn took on Asuchak, and Shawn Szydlowski had a slugfest with Stevenson. In Game 1, there had been a fight between Beaupre and Gary Steffes, who scored the overtime winner Sunday.
"We showed that if they want to go out and throw fists with us, we’re a tough team and can defend ourselves that way, too," Schaafsma said. "We’re not going to give into those kinds of antics, but we want to play between whistles and try to stay out of the box."
Minor penalties, not fighting, have been the Komets’ biggest hindrance. Allen has scored on 3 of 13 power plays, while Fort Wayne is 1 of 6. The referees have penalized Fort Wayne 23 times and Allen only 15 times.
"Obviously, we’ve got to stay out of the box," Fort Wayne’s Kyle Thomas said. "I don’t agree with every call that’s made, but that doesn’t change anything. … (The penalties) take a toll on us. It’s a lot of extra minutes and we’ve got to stay out of the box."