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The Journal Gazette

  • Jeremy Wadsworth | The Blade Fort Wayne goalie Zachary Fucale blocks a shot during the second period Friday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Brady Shaw, right, shoots the puck at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio, as he's defended by Ryan Obuchowski of the Toledo Walleye on Friday in Game 1 of the Central Division semifinals.

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Justin Hodgman, right, takes a faceoff at the Huntington Center against A.J. Jenks of the Toledo Walleye on Friday in Game 1 of the Central Division semifinals. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019 1:00 am

ECHL playoffs

K's come up short in Game 1

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Komets vs. Toledo

Central Division semifinals

Best-of-7

Walleye leads 1-0

Game 1: Toledo wins 3-2

Game 2: Today, 7:30 p.m. at Toledo

Game 3: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum

Game 4: Friday, 8 p.m. at the Coliseum

Game 5: April 20, 7:30 p.m. at Toledo*

Game 6: April 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Coliseum*

Game 7: April 24, 7:30 p.m. at Toledo*

*If necessary

TOLEDO – Some might look at what transpired at the Huntington Center as a missed opportunity for the Komets. They had it tied, in hostile road territory, against a higher-seeded team in the third period Friday night.

Even though they lost 3-2 – the game turning on goals by the Toledo Walleye's Bryan Moore and Greg Wolfe just 23 seconds apart – the Komets felt this was more something to build on than an opening game that got away in the Central Division semifinals.

“I thought we played a really good game. We just had a couple mistakes in the third period there. They got two quick ones, which took away our momentum and we can't allow that,” said Fort Wayne's Shawn Szydlowski.

“We had a lot of chances and as long as we bear down – getting the first goal is huge – let's hope it'll be different for tomorrow.”

Toledo's Pat Nagle stopped 28 shots. Fort Wayne's Zach Fucale stopped 35 shots in front of 6,163 fans.

Toledo's third-period goals both came off turnovers at the offensive blue line – something that has dogged the Komets this season – and Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham would like that corrected for Game 2 of the best-of-7 series, 7:30 p.m. today.

“Both teams played a pretty good hockey game but, obviously, we had the 1-minute mental lapse there where they scored two goals,” Graham said. “We didn't handle the momentum shift there very well. Other than that, we did a lot of good things. I thought we generated some scoring chances. I just thought Nagle was very good tonight; we had Grade-A scoring chances right in front of him but we weren't able to really capitalize.”

Fort Wayne had tied it at 1 when dump-and-chase hockey resulted in Cody Sol's 50-foot shot being redirected by Jake Kamrass 4:42 into the third period. Moore answered by blocking a Josh Elmes shot, then taking off on a 3-on-2 rush that saw him finish it with a goal at 9:26.

“It was awesome,” Moore said. “I didn't really know what was going on, it was just a blocked shot and then I was going down ... and waiting for the goalie to bite on it. I thought he was thinking I would pass the puck over to (Dylan) Sadowy and I was lucky enough to put the shot right through him.”

The first two periods were marked by end-to-end action, missed opportunities and the feisty physical play one expects when these rivals engage. Toledo's first goal came from Matt Register, who was set up by Sadowy circling the net, 9:16 into the first period.

There was a huge check by Toledo's Ben Storm on Mason Baptista; a fracas that saw A.J. Jenks cross-check Sydlowski and then get thrown to the ice by Baptista; a controversial penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on Szydlowski for shooting the puck into the net after the first period ended; and shots by Toledo's Register and Ryan Obuchowski that hit posts.

The Walleye's ability to excel after Kamrass had tied it, though, was pivotal.

“Going into this playoff series, we were talking about being positive throughout the series no matter what happens,” Moore said. “The coaches are doing a great job, as are all the leaders. All the way down the line, everyone is staying positive. That's one thing that's going to keep us going all the way through this playoff run.”

Notes: The referees were Andrew Bruggeman and Jacob Rekucki. ... Cincinnati's Jesse Schultz was selected ECHL MVP by coaches, reporters, broadcasters and team staffs.

jcohn@jg.net