Inside The Zone – March 24

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The Komets skated four games in five nights during week 23 and gained four points with a pair of victories to take over sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, improving to 30-23-11 and 71 points after 64 games.
How they stand in the Eastern Conference through games of March 23:

Rank Eastern GP W L OTL SOL PTS PCT GF GA STK P10 S/O PIM
1 Kalamazoo Wings 64 39 19 2 4 84 0.656 202 172 1-0-0-1 8-1-0-1 4-4 1048
2 Reading Royals 64 40 21 2 1 83 0.648 201 165 0-1-0-0 7-2-1-0 4-1 848
3 South Carolina Stingrays 64 38 20 2 4 82 0.641 173 148 0-1-0-1 5-4-0-1 5-4 775
4 Orlando Solar Bears 63 38 21 2 2 80 0.635 200 188 1-0-0-0 5-4-1-0 4-2 1077
5 Greenville Road Warriors 63 36 22 2 3 77 0.611 194 171 3-0-0-0 8-2-0-0 5-3 878
6 Cincinnati Cyclones 62 35 21 2 4 76 0.613 213 178 2-0-0-0 5-1-1-3 7-4 701
7 Wheeling Nailers 64 33 25 1 5 72 0.562 186 182 0-1-0-0 6-4-0-0 3-5 1072
8 Fort Wayne Komets 64 30 23 6 5 71 0.555 187 193 0-1-0-0 5-5-0-0 2-5 887
9 Florida Everblades 63 31 25 3 4 69 0.548 205 198 0-2-0-0 4-5-1-0 5-4 974
10 Evansville IceMen 64 29 25 3 7 68 0.531 199 205 2-0-0-0 4-6-0-0 4-7 943
11 Gwinnett Gladiators 66 26 35 3 2 57 0.432 174 206 1-0-0-0 5-4-1-0 3-2 833
12 Elmira Jackals 63 22 33 3 5 52 0.413 154 209 0-6-1-0 2-6-1-1 1-5 882
13 Toledo Walleye 62 19 38 3 2 43 0.347 175 237 1-0-0-1 3-6-0-1 2-2 902

The week ahead– Three weeks and eight games remain on the 2013-14 slate.  This week the Komets skate a pair at South Carolina Friday and Saturday at 7pm each night.  The Stingrays trail first-place Kalamazoo by two points and second-place Reading by a point in the tight battle for first place in the Eastern Conference and home ice advantage for at least the first three rounds of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.  The two matches at North Charleston Coliseum (6,712) this weekend are the only meetings of the season.  The Komets also skated two games at South Carolina last season going 1-0-1 in the short series.  The Stingrays, 3-1-1 in their last five games, are coming off a 5-1 home loss to Greenville Sunday and are idle this week until they face the Komets Friday.

Week 23 in review:
Wednesday the Komets kicked off a stretch of three home games in four nights with a 5-4 setback to the Orlando Solar Bears.  It was the only meeting of the season between the two teams.  Mike Embach (LW) netted his second hat trick of the season and 3rd as a pro while Shawn Szydlowski (RW) also scored for Fort Wayne.  Netminder Ben Meisner started for the Komets and made seven saves on 10 shots before local native Larkin Saalfrank entered the game in relief at the 11:13 mark of the second period for his first pro appearance.  Saalfrank completed the game making eight saves on 10 shots.

Friday the Komets edged the visiting Gwinnett Gladiators 2-1 on goals by Szydlowski and Embach.  University of Connecticut standout Matt Grogan earned his first pro win in his first pro start making 23 saves on 24 shots before leaving the game due to an ailment at 8:23 of the third period.  Another new goalie in the Komet lineup that night, Kevin Murdock from Lake Superior State University, also made his pro debut stopping all four Gwinnett shots he faced in 11:37 of relief.  Szydlowski scored the first goal of the game for Fort Wayne.  Embach netted the game winner for a Fort Wayne season-high four-game goal-scoring streak.  The Komets completed the season series with the Gladiators at an even 1-1-0.

Saturday the Komets started a home-and-home series against the Kalamazoo Wings at the Memorial Coliseum with a 4-3 shootout win.  Scott Fleming (C), Kenton Miller (C) and Joe Southorn (D) hit the net for the Komets during regulation.  After a scoreless overtime, William Lacasse (D) scored the only goal needed in the sixth round of the extra session, his only shootout attempt of the season, to give Fort Wayne the win.  Goaltender Grogan made 30 saves on 33 shots during regulation and overtime and stopped all six Kalamazoo shooters in the shootout for his first pro win.

Sunday at Kalamazoo the Komets dropped the back-end game of the home-and-home series against the Wings 5-3.  Embach scored his 20th goal of the season as a Komet.  Aaron Clarke (LW) and Fleming also scored for the Komets.  Grogan suffered the loss making 22 saves on 27 shots in his third straight start.

It’s a new Komet record– Friday’s game against Gwinnett saw two goalies make their pro debuts with the Komets.  Matt Grogan and Kevin Murdock became the seventh and eighth Komet goalies, respectively, to appear in Fort Wayne games this season to set the Fort Wayne all-time record of most goalies in a season at eight.  The old record was seven, set in 1991-92, 1995-96, 1997-98 and 1999-00.

Milestones and markers– To sum up, three goaltenders made their pro debuts last week with the Komets; Larkin Saalfrank (Wednesday vs Orlando), and Matt Grogan and Kevin Murdock (Friday vs Gwinnett)……Sy Nutkevitch (C) skated his 100th pro game Wednesday vs Orlando…..Simon Danis-Pepin (D) reached a career high of 17 assists this season with two helpers Saturday vs Kalamazoo…..Jace Coyle (D) matched his career highs of 23 assists and 31 points with an assist Saturday.

Komet leaders– Brandon Marino leads the ECHL with 54 assists and 78 points…..Chris Auger leads the Komets and ranks third in the ECHL with 26 goals…..Auger and Scott Fleming lead with +11…..Kaleigh Schrock leads with 151 penalty minutes.

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