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The Journal Gazette

  • Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles Komets defenseman Cody Sol, right, and Michael Joly of the Colorado Eagles talk trash in the midst of the pre-game fracas that broke out between the teams Sunday in Loveland, Colorado, before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

  • Ashley Potts | Colorado Eagles Komets Mason Baptista and Bobby Shea begin shoving with Gabriel Verpalst of the Colorado Eagles during warm-ups, in what would turn into a melee between almost all of the teams' players during in Loveland, Colorado. 

  • Jordan Reyes Imagery | Colorado Eagles The Colorado Eagles' Joey Ratelle and the Komets' Daniel Maggio engage in a fight during warmups before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals at Loveland Colorado, as Fort Wayne goalies Michael Houser and Garrett Bartus, and captain Jamie Schaafsma, top, look on at the Budweiser Events Center. 

  • Standout Imagery | Colorado Eagles Komets forward Garrett Thompson and teammate Daniel Maggio battle to get the second goal of the night Sunday For the result of Sunday’s Western Conference finals Game 2, go to www.journalgazette.net.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 11:50 pm

K's tie series, led by Bartus, Roy

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

LOVELAND, Colorado – The Komets had made it clear after the opening game of the Western Conference finals that they weren’t pleased their goaltender, Michael Houser, had been bowled over a couple of times by the defending champion Colorado Eagles.

The simmering anger became a full-on boil during warmups Sunday at the Budweiser Events Center. Just as fans were realizing Houser would be unable to play thanks to an injury suffered on one of those hits, a melee broke out between the teams during warmups.

Maybe it was just the energy they needed to cement a 3-2 victory in a hard-hitting game that saw backup goalie Garrett Bartus stop 18 shots in his first action since April 8, the next-to-last game of the regular season. Marco Roy’s first goal of the playoffs was the winner and Bartus stopped Drayon Bowman from point-blank range with two seconds left.

The best-of-7 Western Conference finals are tied at 1.

Fort Wayne scored on 2 of 8 power plays. Colorado was 0 for 4.

During the warmups, there was much shoving, jabbing of sticks and mouthing off, and two fights: Fort Wayne’s Dennis Kravchenko and Daniel Maggio took on, respectively, Gabriel Verpaelst and Joey Ratelle. As the ECHL rushed to gather evidence on what happened, it determined the combatants in the first fight, Kravchenko and Verpaelst, wouldn’t be allowed to play. They were replaced in the lineup by Fort Wayne’s Kevin McKernan and Teigan Zahn.

Houser had suffered the undisclosed injury during overtime of the 3-2 loss in Game 1, when Ryan Harrison bowled him over moments before Michael Joly completed his hat trick by netting the winning goal. Houser had also gone to a local hospital Saturday because he was fighting dehydration, but Komets general manager David Franke said that wouldn’t have impacted his ability to play and that Houser should be ready for Game 3 on Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum.

In the absence of Houser, who is 8-4 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against average in the playoffs, Bartus showed no rust in the first period, stopping Harrison and Joly shots from from point-blank range. But he wasn’t tested often as the Eagles took five of the period’s six penalties and were outshot 15-5.

Maggio, capitalizing on skirting punishment for his part in the pre-game melee, scored a power-play goal off a rebound 7:05 into the first period and Garrett Thompson scored similarly on a power play at 19:26 to make it 2-0.

Ratelle also took advantage of being able to play, netting a goal from the slot 14:10 into the second period after Matt Register’s check on Jason Binkley caused a turnover and allowed him to send a pass to the front of the net.

Roy answered for the Komets with a one-timer at 19:20 after Thompson sent him a no-look pass from behind the net, making it 3-1.

The Komets had a chance to build on their lead 6:10 into the third period, when Jamie Schaafsma got a breakaway, but Joe Cannata (27 saves) thwarted him.

jcohn@jg.net