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The Journal Gazette

  • Standout Imagery | Colorado Eagles Michael Joly of the Colorado Eagles goes flying after scoring, and being checked by Marco Roy of the Komets, in the first period at the Budweiser Events Center on Saturday night. Komets goalie Michael Houser, front, is sprayed by ice by the Eagles' Matt Garbowsky in the opening game of the Western Conference finals.  

  • Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles Komets defenseman Cody Sol brings the puck up the ice at the Budweiser Events Center on Saturday in Loveland, Colorado. To see the results of the game, go to

  • Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles Forward Garrett Thompson, front, and the rest of the Komets celebrate Daniel Maggio's first-period goal at the Budweiser Events Center on Saturday night, in the first period of the opening game of the Western Conference finals in Loveland, Colorado. 

  • Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles Komets forward Gabriel Desjardins, left, gets in a post-whistle scrap with the Colorado Eagles' Collin Bowman on Saturday at the Budweiser Events Center, while linesman Patrick Richardson tries to break it up and Matt Register, right, looks on in the opening game of the Western Conference finals.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 12:10 am

Eagles escape K's with OT victory

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

LOVELAND, Colorado – The Komets had their chances, but they dropped the opening game of the Western Conference finals 3-2, thanks to a Michael Joly hat trick.

He netted the winning goal, shooting low on goaltender Michael Houser after he was set up by J.C. Beaudin’s pass from behind the net 3:25 into extra time.

A crowd of 5,289 fans attended the game at the Budweiser Events Center, where the defending champions trailed in the third period.

It was a special-teams heavy game in which Fort Wayne scored on 2 of 7 power plays and Colorado was 1 of 7. But the Eagles forced overtime with a short-handed goal from Joly.

Game 2 is tonight at 9 p.m. at the Budweiser Events Center.

Though they won’t have him until Game 3 – 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum – forward Trevor Cheek is returning from Tucson of the American Hockey League. The Roadrunners’ season came to an end Friday night with a playoff loss to the Texas Stars and Fort Wayne general manager David Franke had to make quick work to arrange the move, since his roster had to be in by 3 p.m. Saturday and there would be salary cap concerns.

Both goaltenders came up with big stops in the early minutes of the game, including Fort Wayne’s Michael Houser thwarting Travis Barron on a breakaway and Colorado’s Joe Cannata foiling Jamie Schaafsma and Justin MacDonald on breakaways.

But there were also myriad penalties and those got the goal scoring going. With Ryan Harrison in the penalty box for charging, Daniel Maggio gave the Komets a 1-0 lead by redirecting a Ryan Culkin blue-line shot at 16:34.

It took two minutes for the Eagles’ Joly to answer by stick-handling around Cody Sol, faking Houser to the ice and slipping the puck into an open net, as Schaafsma served an interference penalty.

Not to be outdone, the Komets’ Gabriel Desjardins, who came into the night leading the league in playoff scoring netted a power-play goal 3:49 into the second period, taking a pass from Shawn Szydlowski at the blue line, skating in undefended and putting a backhand from the right circle past Cannata.

The Eagles had a terrific chance to tie it early in the third period when Shawn St-Amant got out of the penalty box just in time for a breakaway and waited long enough to Houser to sprawl to the ice, but the netminder stretched his glove to foil what looked like a sure goal.

Joly atoned, though, netting a short-handed breakaway goal at 10:40, after he stripped Culkin of the puck.


Notes: The Komets played with the same lineup they’d used in Tuesday’s 4-2 series-clinching victory over the Toledo Walleye. They played without Phelix Martineau (lower body injury), Justin Hodgman (concussion), Kevin McKernan and Artur Tyanulin. … The referees were Alex Normandin and Jonathan Sitarski. … The Eastern Conference finals between the Florida Everblades and Adirondack Thunder are tied at 1.