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  • 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 9:10 am

What's in store for K's vs. Eagles, Game 2

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

LOVELAND, Colorado – The opening game of the Western Conference finals – a 3-2 overtime victory by the Colorado Eagles over the Komets – was one of those rare ones in which both coaches were less than pleased.

The Komets were irked, of course, because they had the game in their grasp and gave it away Saturday. Namely, a bad Ryan Culkin turnover that led to Michael Joly’s third-period, game-tying, short-handed goal, and captain Jamie Schaafsma’s high-sticking penalty in overtime that negated a power play.

Joly, of course, netted the winner as the teams skated four-on-four. It completed his hat trick.

As for Eagles coach Aaron Schneekloth, he seemed well aware his team may have skirted misfortune.

“Their power play has been so good in the playoffs and they proved it tonight,” he said. “Our penalty kill needs to be way better and our discipline needs to be way better. We can’t afford to keep giving teams five to seven power plays a game. Eventually it’s going to end up costing us.

"I know we’re a team that wants to play hard and on the edge, but some of these…we’re putting more work on ourselves than we need to. I thought we got better as the game went on, but I saw the layoff in our hockey team. There’s no question.”

Lots more I want to add, so here we go:

  • On the Eagles’ running the goalie, no I don’t see anything that deserves a suspension. The referees dealt with it appropriately on the ice. And no, Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham’s comments from Saturday weren’t on par with those of Toledo last season. In fact, they were sort of the opposite; he was saying “we’ll fight fire with fire” if this is the type of hockey we’re in store for, not “we’ll speed-dial the commissioner incessantly” until it’s changed. All that being said, this was just Game 1 and I can already see this potentially devolving into that sort of thing.
  • Talking to people around here, there is really a feeling that teams from our part of the country cannot deal with the physical style of play played out west. There is something to be said for the Central Division not being as tough as it used to be, but I’m also not sure I totally subscribe to that. You can’t tell me Cody Sol, Daniel Maggio, Shawn Szydlowski, Curtis Leonard, Garrett Thompson and Bobby Shea aren’t built for this type of thing.
  • The differing styles between these teams is obvious. The Komets want to forecheck and really get sustained pressure on the Eagles. Colorado is all about looking for the home run, end-to-end rush. “They were trying to pull the fastbreak up the ice and they’ve got a couple fast guys,” Fort Wayne’s Daniel Maggio said. “But for the most part, I thought we did a good job of containing their speed. If we get on top of them, get the puck behind their D and forecheck, I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”
  • At some time, Szydlowski has to have a breakout game. It feels like tonight would be the night. He’s got three goals and 13 points in 12 playoff games. But this is the league’s leading scorer and MVP from the regular season and, well, he’s due.
  • The good news is Sean Fernandez, who is the most hated referee in Fort Wayne these days – and as far as I can tell, everywhere else – shouldn’t be calling Game 2 because he worked the Eastern Conference game on Saturday. That would really be a recipe for disaster in a potentially physical game like this.
  • The pre-game attention will be on Komets goalie Michael Houser. I don’t care what the Komets are saying, I’ll believe he’s playing tonight when I see it. Normally, that would cause alarm. But I don’t look at Garrett Bartus as the typical backup. He hasn’t played in what seems like ages, sure, but you’re also talking about one of the best goalies in the league, and the Komets’ defense always seems to play better in front of him. If he does need to play, it could be a spark as much as anything for Fort Wayne. Or, it could be complete disaster, who knows?
  • The atmosphere at the Budweiser Events Center is terrific. You are very close to the action and they really do a great job here. I’m not sure what I can compare it to. The building is like a smaller Quad City arena. The crowd feels like Rapid City. There’s a bit of a Utah feel. And a little mix of Kansas City Mavericks in it. Through the years, a lot of people called this Fort Wayne west (as in Komets west) and I totally get it now because they do things very similarly in a lot of ways.
  • Not sure what lineup changes the Komets could make to better things tonight. It feels odd that their lone all-star, Artur Tyanulin, isn't playing. But he's not going to play a physical brand of hockey they probably need. That being said, he was terrific in the regular-season game here. Also, at some time, I have to wonder if the Arizona Coyotes want him playing. Given all the special teams, also, Tyanulin would be valuable on the power play. 

jcohn@jg.net