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Linda Leslie/Special to Journal Gazette
Former IPFW goaltender Todd Mancuso lost his eligibility for being a backup with the Komets.

A sad story of lost eligibility

1 night with K's cost Mancuso college career

Imagine for a moment that you get to realize a dream. And it's awesome. But just days later you find out it unknowingly torpedoed many of your other hopes and dreams.

Would it have been worth it?

That's about how Todd Mancuso feels today after learning he had unanimously lost an appeal he had filed with the American Collegiate Athletic Association.

His college career with IPFW is over and all because he spent one night – never getting off the bench – as a goalie with the Komets.

"He doesn't have any eligibility left because he rostered in a professional game," said Rick Kaminski, the ACAA's Division III commissioner.

The Komets were in a need of a goalie Dec. 21 because Cody Reichard had been called up to the American Hockey League the night before. It was short notice before they played at Reading, Pa., so they did what they had done several times before – called upon an IPFW goalie to be the emergency backup, meaning they could only play if there was an injury to the other goalie.

"It was pretty eye-opening. For a player who has played for as long as I have, to get a call out of nowhere and take this new direction after being at it for so long, it was a good experience," said Mancuso, a sophomore. "It was fun. The guys brought me right in. I was just the new guy, but at the same time, you try to soak up every bit of it."

The Komets lost 2-1 in an overtime shootout and Mancuso's stint with the Komets was over.

Less than a week later, website www.achatalk.com reported that Mancuso had jeopardized his eligibility at IPFW.

"It started coming up on social media feeds, 'IPFW goalie forfeits eligibility,' and then the questions started," said Mancuso, 21, who is from Midlothian, Ill., and chose IPFW in part because he wanted to play hockey here.

There used to be a loophole in the rules that allowed players like Mancuso to join professional teams as emergency goalies because they didn't actually get into the games or get paid any money.

"I don't remember exactly when it changed, but it changed a couple of seasons ago," Kaminski said. "It was always in the rules, but it needed to be clarified.… Before, it read kind of like you had to play in the game, but in the case of a goaltender, they don't always get on the ice. So that was changed."

The change happened at the ACAA's annual meetings in Naples, Fla., the problem being IPFW is a club team without much support from the school's athletic department and without the budget to attend such functions.

That's not the case with all ACAA programs, but it is with some.

So it's tough to tell who's to blame. Is it the ACAA for not directly notifying IPFW of a change? Is it the Mastodons for not knowing the rulebook and just assuming what was legal for former goalies Larkin Saalfrank and Tommie Shears would still be OK for Mancuso? Or is it the Komets for dangling the chance?

"I'm not going to point any fingers," said Mancuso, who was 4-8-0 with a 5.02 goals-against average and a .820 save percentage for IPFW this season, playing behind Nathan Pratt. "All parties involved probably should have looked deeper into it with the new rule changes. I didn't even really think to look too far into it."

Mancuso has no plans to leave IPFW. He's an engineering major and wants the Purdue degree.

"I'll definitely be sticking around town," he said.

Note: The ECHL's Bakersfield Condors have been sold by longtime owner Jonathan Fleisig to the NHL's Edmonton Oilers.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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