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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Trevor Cheek, who is on an ECHL-best five-game goal-scoring streak, leaps over the stick of Quad City Mallards defenseman Alexander Kuqali at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets defense Curtis Leonard breaks his stick while taking a shot at the net in the second period against Quad City at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 1:00 am

Komets hot, but can't close gap

Gone 11-1-1, but Walleye's lead in division remains

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Komets vs. Indy

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Memorial Coliseum

Radio: 1190 AM/107.5 FM

Even more amazing than the Komets' recent hot streak – they are 11-1-1 in their last 13 games – is that it did so little to improve their position in the Central Division.

When the run began Jan. 13, they trailed the Toledo Walleye by three points for the division lead. They are still three points back of Toledo, which is 11-3-1 during the same span.

The ECHL schedule makers, to the continuing frustration of the fans, slated only one more regular-season game between the Komets and Walleye – April 6 at Memorial Coliseum.

“In our division, it's the toughest division in the league, and everybody around you keeps winning,” said coach Gary Graham, whose Komets (32-13-3) have won five of seven against the Walleye. “I would expect the same teams to keep winning. We're in for a dogfight down the stretch. Every game, we're not going to really look who's around us, we're just going to focus on winning as many games as possible because our division's that good.”

With 24 games left, starting 7:30 p.m. today at the Coliseum against the Indy Fuel (21-22-3), the Komets have improved their chances of getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Whereas only one point separated them from third place Jan. 13, now there's an 11-point cushion between them and the Kalamazoo Wings and the Cincinnati Cyclones, who have both given Fort Wayne fits. The Komets are 2-3-1 against the Cyclones and 0-3-0 against the Wings.

“We're really pushing and expecting a lot of greatness from our team,” said Garrett Thompson, who Tuesday was named the ECHL's Player of the Week after totaling two goals and eight points in four games.

“We know we have a lot of depth on our team. We have a lot of good players and a team that's (near the) top of the league and pushing for that. We know the points right now are crucial, especially in our division. When playoff time comes, that home ice is going to be huge for us, so it is nice to know that we're playing well.”

Trevor Cheek is on a league-best goal-scoring streak of five games. Shawn Szydlowski's league-leading point total has grown to 60, two more than Cincinnati's Justin Danforth. And the Komets' 67 points are tied with Colorado for fourth most in the 27-team ECHL, behind only Florida (73), Toledo (70) and South Carolina (68).

Garrett Bartus is 8-0-1 since Dec. 20, bringing his record to 12-2-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage and one shutout. Michael Houser is 20-9-2 with a 2.81 GAA, .908 SP and two shutouts.

Indy, six points back of Kansas City for fifth place in the division, has won only one of six meetings this season with the Komets.

Notes: Former players Jim Burton and Ron Leef will be among the five-person class inducted in to the Komets' Hall of Fame before the March 11 game against Kalamazoo. Burton was the International Hockey League's top defenseman in 1983, 1986 and 1987. Leef totaled 57 goals and 120 points in 1982-83. Ruth Wiegmann, who housed more than 80 players as the unofficial team mom, will also be inducted with Dean Pantazi of WPTA-TV and Kent Hormann of Fort Wayne's NBC. The Komets will honor players from all nine of their championship teams March 10 and 11, when the Stanley Cup will be on hand and the Hall of Fame will grow to 51 honorees.

jcohn@jg.net