Brandon Marino may be the most dangerous scorer the Komets have ever had.
He won the ECHL’s scoring title with 30 goals and 88 points in 72 games, becoming the first Fort Wayne player to accomplish the feat since Lonnie Loach in 1991 in the old IHL.
The defending champion Reading Royals have a similar player, Yannick Tifu. He had 19 goals and 48 points in 60 games. He’s dogged the Komets since 2005-06 when he was with the Rockford IceHogs in a bitter five-game UHL playoff series victory over Fort Wayne.
Whichever star player fares better in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, which begins tonight in Reading, Pa., will lead his team into the next round.
Fort Wayne was 1-2-1 against Reading in the regular season, and Marino and Tifu both averaged a point in the series.
Marino is a better defender; he was plus-1 and contributed two short-handed assists. Tifu was minus-5. And Marino is more productive on the power play; he had seven goals and 21 points. Tifu had three goals and 12 points.
Other key matchups
Jordon Southorn vs. Josh Brittain: Southorn is the Komets’ do-everything defenseman. He has 12 goals and 32 points in 53 games, runs the point on the power play and is physical. Brittain, who played last season for Fort Wayne, has spent a lot of time in the American Hockey League and uses his size (6-foot-5, 233 pounds) to wreak havoc. He has 14 goals and 26 points in 36 games with Reading.
Domenic Monardo vs. Ben Meisner: Monardo leads Reading in goals (27) and shots (214). Meisner is 14-6-2 with a 2.39 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.
By the numbers
Fort Wayne has the 13th-ranked offense (2.99 goals per game) and the 12th-ranked defense (2.99 goals against per game). Reading has the No. 4 offense (3.18) and No. 4 defense (2.53). Fort Wayne ranks 19th (14 percent efficiency) on power plays, and Reading is ninth (16.5 percent). Fort Wayne is third (86.3 percent) on penalty kills, and Reading is second (86.5 percent).
Odds and ends
When leading after two periods, the Komets are 23-4-8. When trailing, they are 3-16-1. Reading is 34-1-3 when leading after two periods and 4-17-1 when trailing. All time, the Komets are 1-4-1 against the Royals. Aaron Clarke has scored in five straight road games for the Komets. Ethan Cox has assisted on goals in five straight home games, all victories, for Reading. Fort Wayne has given up 10 short-handed goals, sixth most in the league. Reading has scored 10 short-handed goals, seventh most.
Despite the discrepancy in record and in seeding, the Komets match up well with Reading, which likes to play more of a run-and-gun open-ice style. But the Komets’ inconsistencies defensively and on the power play will hurt them. The Royals will win in six games.