Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles Komets defenseman Cody Sol brings the puck up the ice at the Budweiser Events Center on Saturday in Loveland, Colo., in the opening game of the Western Conference finals.
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.
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.
Sunday, May 13, 2018 1:00 am
K's confident despite Game 1 loss
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
LOVELAND, Colorado – The Komets came away from the Budweiser Events Center confident because they showed they can outplay the Colorado Eagles, disappointed since they coughed up the opening game of the Western Conference finals and peeved feeling they felt the Eagles were taking shots at their goaltender.
Michael Joly completed his hat trick, netting the winning goal 3:25 into overtime Saturday night by accepting a pass from behind the net from J.C. Beaudin and snapping it underneath goalie Michael Houser to cement a 3-2 come-from-behind victory for the defending champion Eagles.
Just moments before, Houser had been bowled over by Ryan Harrison, leaving him motionless on the ice for several moments before he completed his 30-save night.
“They were consistently running the goaltender and it's a joke. I give the referees credit because they were calling it. But if that's the type of hockey we're going to be playing, look out,” said Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham, whose team got goals from Daniel Maggio and Gabriel Desjardins on power plays.
The Komets scored on 2 of 7 power plays. The Eagles were 1 for 7. But they netted a short-handed goal 3:25 into the third period, after Joly stripped Ryan Culkin of the puck along the boards to beat Houser on a breakaway.
Joly’s other goal came similarly; he stick-handled around Cody Sol, faked Houser to the ice and sent the puck into an open net to tie it at 1 late in the first period.
“Listen, if you give a 41-goal scorer the ability to have a hat trick by giving him a breakaway on a power play, where he gets in behind you, and you give him a short-handed goal, the likelihood of beating a good team is going to be slim to none and that’s what happened,” Graham said.
But the Komets weren’t shaken by the loss as much as angry about it.
“We know what their firepower is and we know who it comes from. We’ve got to recognize that when they’re on the ice. We’ve got to blink this (away) and there’s another one tomorrow,” said Maggio, who opened the scoring by redirecting a Culkin blue-line shot past goalie Joe Cannata.
Game 2 is 9 p.m. tonight at the Budweiser Events Center, where there was a crowd of 5,289 for Game 1.
Desjardins, who leads the ECHL in playoff scoring with seven goals and 16 points, gave Fort Wayne a 2-1 lead by taking a pass from Shawn Szydlowski, skating undefended toward Cannata and sending a backhand shot from the right circle into the net.
Cannata stopped 23 shots.
“We know we can take it to them. We know that. In the room, we’re confident in ourselves,” Maggio said. “We’re just going to start (in Game 2) in the first period by getting back to work. There’s not much to say. It was an unfortunate couple bounces. But that game, I thought we should have had them.”
The Komets are 0-2 in overtime games in these playoffs, also losing 7-6 to Cincinnati in the first round. The Eagles have won 4 of 5 overtime games.
Though they won’t have him until Game 3 – 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum – forward Trevor Cheek is returning to the Komets 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.
The Eagles came into the opener well rested, having completed their second-round sweep of the Idaho Steelheads on May 3. The Komets hadn’t ousted the rival Toledo Walleye until Tuesday night, had a hectic day of Friday travel that included busing to Chicago, flying to Denver and busing the hour to Loveland, and they had to adjust to the two-hour time difference and the altitude.
Both goalies came up with big saves throughout the night, including a Cannata stop of Jamie Schaafsma on a breakaway and Houser foiling Shawn St-Amant on a breakaway, during which he waited for the goalie to sprawl to the ice before sending a shot that somehow was caught by his glove. St-Amant had been in the penalty box for charging Houser.
Houser has played in every playoff game for the Komets. Should he be unable to play in Game 2, Garrett Bartus would take over the goaltending duties.
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.