Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Dan Milan, left, battles for position with the Toledo Walleye's Alden Hirshfeld in front of Fort Wayne goaltender Pat Nagle at the Huntington Center on Saturday night.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Cody Sol, left, skates the puck out of the defensive zone Saturday while being chased by Toledo's Shane Berschbach at the Huntington Center.
Andy Morrison | The Blade Komets defenseman Curtis Leonard carries the puck up the ice Saturday night at the Huntington Center.
Andy Morrison | The Blade Komets goaltender Pat Nagle guards the net, as Toledo's A.J. Jenks fires a shot at the Huntington Center on Saturday night. Komets defenseman Curtis Leonard, right, looks on in Game 5.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets goaltender Pat Nagle, left, loses sight of the puck after making a save, while Fort Wayne's Travis Ewanyk and Toledo's Alden Hirschfeld battle at the Huntington Center on Saturday night.
Saturday, May 06, 2017 10:20 pm
Komets season over with loss
Fort Wayne's 65th season ends in Game 5 loss
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Walleye power play is just too good to give it chances. The Komets were reminded yet again of that Saturday night and now they will have to mull it over in the offseason.
Propelled by two early power-play goals, Toledo defeated the Komets 5-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 8,013 at the Huntington Center, where Fort Wayne’s 65th season came to an end in Game 5 of the Central Division finals.
Jeff Lerg, who wasn’t atop the Toledo depth chart coming into the postseason, stopped 24 shots for the shutout, but he was tested less than any other game in the series.
The Komets came into the postseason with the ECHL’s fourth-best record, believed they had the makings of a championship team and hung with Toledo, which had captured the regular-season championship, in the first three games of the best-of-7 series – all decided by one goal.
They had forced the series back to Toledo with a 4-1 victory Friday at Memorial Coliseum, but early penalties dogged the Komets as they had so many times before. Toledo scored on 2 of 5 of power plays, while Fort Wayne was 0 for 3.
The most striking statistic from the series is this: Toledo scored on 6 of 21 power plays and Fort Wayne was 1 for 16.
Toledo, which defeated Fort Wayne in 9 of 11 games including the regular season, will meet either Colorado or defending champion Allen in the Western Conference finals. Colorado is up 3-1 in that series.
With captain Jamie Schaafsma in the penalty box for tripping, Toledo’s Simon Denis opened up the scoring at 5:20 with a shot from just inside the blue line as the Walleye had the game’s first five shots on goal. Denis, a former Fort Wayne defenseman, had returned in Game 4 after missing eight games with a concussion.
The Komets thought they had tied it at 16:06 when Schaafsma put in a shot from the left circle, but the referees (Sean Fernandez and Stephen Thomson) waved it off because Mike Embach had made contact with Lerg outside of the goal crease. On the ensuing power play, Toledo’s Tylor Spink netted a shot from the left circle for a 2-0 lead.
While the Komets had come back from two-goal deficits 10 times this season to win, it wouldn’t be the case tonight.
Capitalizing on two Fort Wayne giveaways in its own zone, Toledo’s A.J. Jenks netted a shot from 15 feet to make it 3-0 at 10:10 of the second period. Tylor Spink set up his brother, Tyson, for a goal off a one-timer from 8 feet to make it 4-0 at 6:44 of the third period. Denis made it 5-0 on a shot from the lefty circle at 12:08.
Notes: With 9:40 left in the third period, the Komets pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4 power play and it didn’t work. … The Komets used the same lineup as Game 4, sitting Kyle Follmer, Brett Perlini, Taylor Crunk and Will Weber, who suffered a hip injury in Game 3. … Toledo’s Zach Nastasiuk, who suffered an injury in Game 4, was replaced by Landon Oslanski, who had a goal and an assist in the first three games of the series.