FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The Komets have clinched a fourth ECHL playoff berth and the 56th post-season in the 65-year history of the team in Fort Wayne after taking a split of a weekend series at Indy to gain two points and improve to 36-16-7 and 79 points after 59 games.
The Komets and Central division leader Toledo are the only two teams to have secured playoff berths so far in the league as the top four teams in each of the four divisions qualify for post-season play. The Komets trail Toledo by 10 points with 13 games remaining. Quad City trails the Komets by 10 points and fourth-place Kalamazoo is 13 points behind Fort Wayne in the race for playoff position.
The 2017 ECHL playoffs are slated to begin the week of April 9th. The first two rounds of the Kelly Cup Playoffs will be played entirely within the division, with the division winner playing the fourth-place finisher and the second-place team meeting the third-place team in the Division Semifinals. The winners of each series will meet in the Division Finals, leading to the Conference Finals and Kelly Cup Finals.
About last week— Friday the Komets began the two-game weekend set at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis falling 6-5 to the Fuel. Fort Wayne mounted a three-goal comeback in the third period after trailing 6-2, scoring three goals in 2:29, the fastest three goals of the season. Indy held off the Komets for the final 1:23 of the game for their first win against Fort Wayne this season. Six different players scored for the Komets including Brett Perlini, Mike Cazzola, Gabriel Desjardins, Jamie Schaafsma and Cody Sol. Defenseman Jason Binkley dished a career high four assists. Goaltender Garrett Bartus started the game and stopped 17 of 22 shots before Pat Nagle entered the game and made three saves on four shots in 24:04 of relief. Nagle suffered the loss, his first regulation loss of the season in 13 appearances. Fort Wayne’s win streak was snapped at a season-high five games and a season-high point streak ended at nine games (7-0-2).
Saturday the Komets rallied again from a 2-0 deficit to tie the Fuel at Indy at the end of regulation and send the game into extra time. After allowing two Indy goals, the Komets began their rally with Cazzola’s 23rd marker of the campaign at 11:05 of the second period to cut the Fuel lead in half at 2-1 before the second intermission. There was no scoring in the third period until Schaafsma finally solved Indy netminder Eric Levine with 35 seconds remaining and Fort Wayne goaltender Nagle pulled in favor of the extra attacker. After a scoreless overtime the Komets collected the win by out-scoring Indy in the shootout 2-1 on goals by Trevor Cheek and Schaafsma. Binkley added assists on each of the two Fort Wayne goals in regulation for a 6-point weekend. The Komets improved to 7-1-0 after eight meetings with the Fuel with one meeting remaining on April 1 at Indy. It’s the seventh time this season Fort Wayne has rallied after trailing at the end of two periods to claim victory (7-10-5) and it’s the first Fort Wayne shootout win since March 6, 2016 when the Komets stunned the Eagles at Colorado 4-3. The Komets improve to 6-3-1 over the last 10 road games (.650).
Komet leaders— Kyle Thomas (currently called-up to Cleveland AHL) leads with 25 goals….Mike Cazzola leads with 39 assists…..Thomas and Cazzola lead with 62 points and nine power play goals each…..Mike Embach and Trevor Cheek lead with five game winning goals…..Cody Sol leads with +28 and 151 penalty minutes…..Thomas continues to lead with 165 shots after missing 12 games…..Will Weber has appeared in the most games with 56 (out of 59).
Komet streaks— Jamie Schaafsma has a seven-game point streak (5g, 6a) and five game road point streak (3g, 5a), Mike Cazzola has a four-game point-scoring streak (3g, 2a) and a five-game road point streak (4g, 6a), Jason Binkley has assists in three straight road games (7a).
Third stanza bonanza— After out-scoring Indy in the third period 4-1 in the two games played the Komets have out-scored opponents in the third stanza 85-48 and have out-shot opponents 659-489.
Komets reach 5500th point– Fort Wayne earned its 5500th point in the history of the Komets with their win at Indy Saturday. During Fort Wayne’s 65-year history the Komets have skated 4,837 regular season games for a record of 2509-1846-482.
The week ahead
Tulsa Oilers (26-30-6, 58 points) at Komets Friday— The Komets will face the Tulsa Oilers for the third and final time this season when the Oilers visit for an 8pm faceoff Friday. The Komets trail the season series 0-1-1 after a 2-1 home loss to Tulsa Jan. 13 when the two teams last met. The Oilers are fighting for a playoff spot, trailing fourth-place Kalamazoo by eight points with 10 games remaining. Tulsa is coming off a 7-2 loss at Missouri Sunday and is idle until Friday’s game at Fort Wayne. The Oilers are riding a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and have three wins in their last dozen games (3-7-2).
Komets at Brampton Beast (34-19-7, 75 points) Sunday– The Komets travel to Brampton to face the Beast at 2pm Sunday. It will be the final meeting of the season with the Komets 1-2-1 after a 4-3 overtime win Feb. 18 in Fort Wayne. Brampton is in a four-way battle for first place in the North division, trailing first place Reading by a point with Manchester three points out of first place and Adirondack trailing the top spot by four points heading into week 23. The Beast are 2-3-0 in their last five games but 7-3-2 in their last 12. Brampton skates at Toledo Wednesday and Elmira Saturday before returning home to host the Komets Sunday afternoon.