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  • John Schultz | Quad City Times Quad-City Mallard's Brady Brassart, goalie C.J. Motte and Fort Wayne's Travis Ewanyk react to Gabriel Desjardins goal, Wednesday, April 19, 2017, during second period action at the iWireless Center in Moline. The goal put the Komets up 2-1.

Friday, April 21, 2017 1:00 am

K's have control, but still cautious

Nagle expects furious attack early

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

ECHL playoffs

Komets vs. Quad City Mallards

Central Division semifinals

Best of 7

Komets lead 3-0

Game 1: Komets 4, Quad City 3

Game 2: Komets 3, Quad City 1

Game 3: Komets 4, Quad City 3 (OT)

Game 4: 8 p.m. today at Quad City

Game 5: 8 p.m. Saturday at Quad City*

Game 6: 7:30 p.m. Monday at Memorial Coliseum*

Game 7: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Coliseum*

*-If necessary

MOLINE, Illinois – The Komets may have a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-7 playoff series with the Quad City Mallards, but they certainly don't expect easy pickings tonight when a victory at the iWireless Center can propel them to the ECHL's second round.

“They're going to give us their best. They're probably going to try and win it in that first five minutes. So we've got to weather the storm,” said goaltender Pat Nagle, who bailed the Komets out many times in their 4-3 victory here Wednesday.

That game was cemented when Kyle Thomas netted a goal 22 seconds into overtime during a power play, which had been awarded because the Mallards' Grant Arnold failed to leave the ice after his helmet had been knocked off. Given the uncommon circumstances that set up that goal, the Komets are cognizant the Mallards could just as easily have come out victorious. 

“Obviously, Pat kept us in it in the first period. To have it only be tied at 1 after the first, it was a miracle. We were not good in the first period. They did a really good job getting to the net and … we had about 17 turnovers in the first period,” said coach Gary Graham, whose Komets were out-shot 17-12 in the first period and 36-35 in the game. “I give our guys a lot of credit for sticking to it. They came out much better in the second period.”

If Quad City wins tonight, the teams will meet again Saturday at the iWireless Center.

“Obviously, this is in their barn and we don't expect them to just roll over and die,” Thomas said. “We've got to expect their best game again. But if we want to go out there and finish the series, we've got to play like it's still tied or we're down.”

As if advancement isn't incentive enough to win Game 4, a victory would give the Komets extra rest while the top-seeded Toledo Walleye and Kalamazoo Wings, who are tied at 2 in the other Central Division series, continue to beat up on one another.

The Komets have been led in the series by rookie Mike Cazzola's three goals and six points, while Shawn Szydlowski has two goals and five points as Fort Wayne has improved its season record against Quad City to 11-2-2.

For Quad City, which has been outscored 11-7 and out-shot 109-67, only Alex Petan has more than one goal, totaling two goals and four points.

“I didn't think we played the greatest game (Wednesday) and I think everyone knows that,” Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “I think we struggled in a lot of areas. It seemed like we were slow out there. But we battled through it and found a way to win, which is good, but I think you can expect us to play a better game and we're excited to try to cut the head off the snake and finish these guys off.”

Nagle, who said the Mallards threw everything but “the kitchen sink” at him in Game 3, expects even more of an attack to come his way tonight. 

“You've got to expect they're going to throw even more,” he said. “It's the last game, possibly, of their season. Nobody throws in the towel. That just doesn't happen. They're a very good opponent.”

jcohn@jg.net