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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets right wing Shawn Szydlowski takes a shot at the net in the second period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Walleye goalie Pat Nagle blocks a shot made by Komets forward Justin MacDonald in the first period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Garrett Thompson reaches around Walleye defense Trevor Hamilton for the puck in the first period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Justin MacDonald and Walleye left wing Shane Berschbach watch for the puck in the first period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Gabriel Desjardins takes a shot at the net in the second period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets right wing Shawn Szydlowski flips the puck at the net in the second period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Gabriel Desjardins, right celebrates with teammates after scoring the leading goal in the second period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets right wing Shawn Szydlowski makes the winning goal in the third period of game six of the playoffs against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Justin MacDonald chases down the puck in the second period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette The Komets and Walleye shake hands after game six of the playoffs at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Garrett Thompson, left celebrates with his teammate Shawn Szydlowski after he hits an empty net goal in the third period of Game 6 of the playoffs against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Walleye left wing Mike Embach reaches out to steal the puck from Komets left wing Garrett Thompson in the first period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Walleye left wing Kyle Bonis take a shot at the net in the first period of game six of the playoffs against the Komets at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Jason Binkley takes a shot at the net in the second period of Game 6 of the Central Division finals against Toledo at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Walleye center Christian Hilbrich shoves Komets defense Dan Maggio to the ice in the first period of game six of the playoffs at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Walleye defense Trevor Hamilton looks to pass the puck in the first period of game six of the playoffs against the Komets at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday.  

Wednesday, May 09, 2018 1:00 am

ECHL Playoffs Komets 4 Toledo 2

Sweet relief for Komets

Finally down rival Walleye to reach Western finals

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Schedule

Who: Komets vs. Colorado

What: Western Conference finals

Series: Best-of-7

Game 1: 9 p.m. Saturday at Colorado

Game 2: 9 p.m. Sunday at Colorado

Game 3: 7:30 p.m. May 16 at Memorial Coliseum

Game 4: 8 p.m. May 18 at Memorial Coliseum

Game 5: 7:30 p.m. May 19 at Memorial Coliseum*

Game 6: 9 p.m. May 22 at Colorado*

Game 7: 9 p.m. May 23 at Colorado*

*If necessary

Division finals

Komets win 4-2

Game 1: Komets 5, Toledo 3

Game 2: Toledo 2, Komets 1

Game 3: Toledo 4, Komets 3

Game 4: Komets 3, Toledo 1

Game 5: Komets 4, Toledo 1

Game 6: Komets 4, Toledo 2

After Shawn Szydlowski's empty-net goal Tuesday night cemented the Komets' 4-2 victory over the Toledo Walleye in front of 6,160 fans at the Coliseum, he looked upward.

It wasn't just to signal his relief – the Komets were finally getting past their bitter rivals – but it was a nod to late broadcaster Bob Chase, with whom Szydlowski had often discussed the decades-long hatred between the cities, their hockey teams and their fans.

“It feels good. It's a relief more than anything,” said Szydlowski, whose Komets ousted the Walleye in six games from the Central Division finals. “For the guys who have been here so long, like me, Cody (Sol) and (coach) Gary Graham, it's kind of been our kryptonite. Just to watch the way the guys played, it was an amazing feeling.

“Whenever anyone gets momentum in this series, it's scary, so just to be able to score that empty-net goal tonight, I kind of looked up, and that was for Bob. Me and Bob used to talk a lot about beating Toledo (before he died in 2016), so I was happy to be able to do that.”

Now it's on to the Western Conference finals, where the defending-champion Colorado Eagles await, and that best-of-7 series will begin at 9 p.m. Saturday in Loveland, Colorado.

The Komets have made it this far in the ECHL playoffs once before, losing to the Allen Americans in 2016, when they didn't play the Walleye.

In 2015, Toledo took Fort Wayne out in seven games. Last year, Toledo did it in five. Even though the Komets won 6 of 8 regular-season meetings between the teams, things again looked dire after the Walleye won Game 3 at the Coliseum, 4-3, on May 2, to take a 2-1 series lead. But the defining characteristic of this Komets team has been its ability to overcome obstacles such as injuries and deficits.

“For us, (Toledo) was a challenge we knew we'd have to face and I thought we did a great job,” Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma said.

“Tonight, we answered the bell. We were down 2-1 and we gave a little extra, and we were able to finally knock off the Toledo Walleye, who have been a good team for the past few years. Kudos to us, but we've still got two more rounds to go and we're going to focus our attention to Colorado.”

Austen Brassard had given the Walleye the 2-1 lead 16:46 into the first period, after he cut through a gaping hole in the defense and snapped a 12-foot shot past goaltender Michael Houser, who stopped 28 shots. The Komets' power play, which scored on 1 of 4 opportunities, came up with the equalizer at 18:13 when defenseman Jason Binkley cut to the far post undefended to put the rebound of a Daniel Maggio shot past goalie Pat Nagle, who stopped 30 shots.

The remainder of the game was marked by terrific goaltending, particularly by Nagle, who stopped Szydlowski, Marco Roy, Mason Baptista and Anthony Petruzzelli on shots from point-blank range.

But he couldn't do anything about the game-winning goal; he was sprawled on the ice when the rebound of a Ryan Culkin shot came to Gabriel Desjardins, who flicked the puck into an open net for a 3-2 lead 10:01 into the second period. Desjardins, who leads all ECHL players with 15 points in the playoffs, had a series-best four goals.

“For the new guys who are in their first year with the Komets, they may not understand what some of us have gone through with Toledo,” Graham said. “I think they probably know, but these guys have been a thorn in my side personally – and a lot of my guys – through the last few years.

“What a good rivalry it's been, and a worthy opponent.”

jcohn@jg.net