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  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Mason Baptista struggles to maintain control of the puck as the Nailers' Jake Schultz, left, and Trevor Yates try to stop him during the first period Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Mason Baptista shoots the puck past the Nailers' Michael Phillips during the first period at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Justin Hodgman prepares to pass the puck to Jake Kamrass during the first period against the Nailers at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Nailers' Blake Siebenaler tries to stop the Komets' Mason Baptista during the first period at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Anthony Petruzzelli shoots the puck during the first period against the Nailers at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Shawn Szydlowski shoots the puck as the Nailers' Jake Schultz, right, and Johnny Austin try to block his shot during the first period at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Justin Hodgman and the Nailers' Dan Fick shove each other as they try to get to the puck during the first period at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets players celebrate after scoring a goal during the first period against the Nailers at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 07, 2019 1:00 am

Komets 6, Wheeling 5

K's win not without worry

Take over 4th place, but defense dicey letting Nailers close gap twice

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Some of the Komets were pleased. Most of them were relieved. Others were just frustrated.

The team had just won Wednesday night – 6-5 over the Wheeling Nailers to take over sole possession of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division – but a frustratingly familiar storyline had also just played out.

Even though J.C. Campagna and Mason Baptista scored two goals apiece to lead the Fort Wayne offense, defensive lapses had almost allowed Wheeling to come back from 5-2 and 6-3 deficits in front of a crowd of 6,526 at Memorial Coliseum.

That tempered the enthusiasm of coach Gary Graham, whose Komets (27-20-9) have allowed an average of 5.5 goals over their last six games, winning four of them.

“These are all big games, in terms of the standings. These are all huge games. But it's just more of the same,” Graham said. “It's a bad goal and then it's like (the movie) 'Groundhog Day.' It's just over and over and over. It'll be a bad goal that starts it and then everybody starts getting nervous and all hell breaks loose. That's what this season is, and you see it every single game.”

Wheeling (27-25-7), which had won the first half of the home-and-home series 3-2 on Sunday, got a hat trick from Trevor Yates, who netted his second goal 2:22 into the third period. Fort Wayne's Baptista redirected a Sean Flanagan shot at 9:30 for a 6-3 lead.

Yates' third goal of the night came at 10:23, when he caromed the puck off the stick of goaltender Zach Fucale from behind the net. Mark Petaccio scored at 13:01 for the Nailers, who had Fort Wayne native Blake Siebenaler on defense.

Fucale finished with 25 saves. Wheeling's Jordan Ruby had 29.

“This is huge,” Campagna said. “Every game, coming down the stretch with how tight the standings are, is going to be huge. Especially since this is a team that we were tied with, now we pull ahead of them. It's just going to be about consistency, every single night. If you lose a couple games, you could be out of the playoffs. If you win a couple, then you move up.”

The Komets' offense erupted with two goals on its first two shots, as Campagna netted a 40-foot shot less than one minute into the game and captain Jamie Schaafsma benefited from a nifty fake of the puck and cross-ice pass by rookie Kyle Hope at 4:35.

The Komets saw the Nailers score twice within 39 seconds, though, as Johnny Austin netted a wrist shot from the right circle at the end of a 2-on-1 rush and Yates scored on a one-timer to even the score at 2 at 9:01.

Fort Wayne regained the lead on a Baptista shot from the right circle – at the end of a 2-on-2 rush – at 9:49 as the teams combined for five goals on only 13 shots. With Fort Wayne enjoying a 5-on-3 power play, Campagna netted another goal at 5:17 by snapping a 35-foot shot from the inside of the right circle.

Shawn Szydlowski made it 5-2 at the end of a 2-on-2 rush, while Fort Wayne was skating short-handed, at 10:49

Campagna has 29 goals in 48 games since the Komets acquired him from Allen for future considerations that became goalie Kyle Hayton.

“It wasn't pretty at times, but the most important thing for us tonight was the two points,” Campagna said.

Before the game, the Komets signed forward Gregg Burmaster, who had 20 goals and 46 points in 29 games this season with Utica College. After the game, Brady Shaw was called up to Chicago of the AHL.

jcohn@jg.net