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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Dennis Kravchenko (24) passes the puck to teammate Louick Marcotte as he makes his way to the net during Wednesday night's 8-3 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings at Memorial Coliseum.

  • The Komets’ Shawn Szydlowski and Kalamazoo’s Ben Wilson fight during the first period of Wednesday’s game. Szydlowski had to receive stitches, but returned.

Thursday, January 04, 2018 1:00 am

Kalamazoo 8, Komets 3

Komets can't dig out of big hole

Home win streak snapped at 7 games; Szydlowski fights

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

It's not often that you'll see the league's leading scorer dropping the gloves to fight. But Shawn Szydlowski isn't about to change a style of play that's worked so well.

So with his team trailing the early in the first period Wednesday night, he engaged in a flurry of punches with Kalamazoo Wings captain Ben Wilson.

What ensued were some scary moments – Szydlowski disappeared into the locker room for about 10 minutes – but not nearly as scary as the way the Wings eviscerated the Fort Wayne defense en route to an 8-3 victory in front of 5,971 fans at Memorial Coliseum.

Szydlowski received stitches near his left eye and returned to the game, not producing any offense as Fort Wayne (20-9-2) lost for only the fourth time in its last 19 games and failed to leapfrog the Toledo Walleye for first place in the Central Division.

“We stunk up the joint. We just weren't good enough,” said Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham. “The crazy thing is if you look at the shots and the scoring chances, we really started coming on, but (if) you dig yourself a (four-goal) hole like that ... maybe it was a bit of a letdown after the big New Year's Eve victory (3-0 over Toledo). You've got to be sharp and you've got to be ready to go.”

Goaltender Michael Houser stopped only 5 of 8 shots before he was replaced by Sean Maguire, who stopped 12 of 17 shots.

When Houser allowed the game's first goal to Josh Pitt on a 15-foot shot 1:16 into the game, it ended Fort Wayne's shutout streak at 127 minutes, 47 seconds. That included Houser's 37-save shutout of Toledo and Saturday's 34-save shutout of the Quad City Mallards by Garrett Bartus, who watched Wednesday from the stands as Maguire, property of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, made his Fort Wayne debut.

Kalamazoo's Michael Garteig stopped 40 shots and was bested by Mason Baptista, Louick Marcotte and Gabriel Desjardins.

The Wings (15-11-3), who snapped the Komets' seven-game home winning streak, got two goals apiece from Justin Taylor and Aaron Irving.

Szydlowski's fight may be thought-provoking – management might prefer its star to steer clear of fisticuffs, but when he fights the Komets normally win – and teammate Taylor Crunk won a one-sided fight with Mackenze Stewart.

“It's part of the game,” Szydlowski said. “Wilson's a tough guy and he's obviously left-handed. Sometimes you don't think about that in the heat of the moment. I didn't get a good grab. He landed a solid punch and it split me open. It was time for some stitches. I know it doesn't look good when you have to leave the rink, when you should have five minutes of sitting in the box, but I got stitched up and fortunately I was able to play again.”

Szydlowski, who has 18 goals, 39 points and 36 penalty minutes in 27 games, didn't seem inclined to change his style.

“I was just raised like that, watching the (Detroit) Red Wings' players growing up,” he said. “And my dad just loved Gordie Howe, so I had that in the back of my mind. I grew up with some tough guys in juniors that I learned from, too. It's definitely more fun to score, but when you get down (on the scoreboard) sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do.”

jcohn@jg.net