TOLEDO, Ohio – The Komets would have loved nothing more than to spoil the Toledo Walleye’s night – and, more importantly, to get back into the win column.
Despite playing what very well may have been their best game of the young season, it was another loss for the Komets, 3-2 to the rival Walleye, which rallied from a one-goal second-period deficit.
But did the Komets ever have a wild chance to tie it late.
Referee Stan Szczurek gave Fort Wayne a penalty shot with 3:19 remaining because Walleye defenseman Brenden Kotyk had swept the goaltender’s water bottle into the corner to obstruct Komets forward Justin Kea. On the ensuing shot, Justin Hodgman took a 20-foot slapshot that was stopped by Pat Nagle, a former Komets goaltender who stopped 22 shots
Lukas Hafner stopped 22 shots for Fort Wayne (1-5-0), and Toledo improved to 4-1-1.
The Komets showed a lot of fire in the first period – Kea fought Kotyk and Chase Stewart fought Hunter Smith, both scraps happening after Toledo had doled out big hits – but the Walleye netted the first goal at 7:19 when former NHL player T.J. Hensick skated over the blue line and sent a slapshot into the top of the net.
But the Komets’ power play, which had ranked only 18th among the ECHL’s 27 teams at 13 percent effiency, tied it at 18:41 when J.C. Campagna snapped a 28-foot shot past Nagle despite pleas for an offside call from the sellout crowd of 8,363, the largest home-opening crowd in Walleye history.
This was the fifth home opener the Komets had played in their six games, having already opened the buildings of the Indy Fuel (the season-opening 3-1 victory), Cincinnati Cyclones and Kalamazoo Wings, and of course Memorial Coliseum. And the Komets were coming off a 7-3 loss to the Walleye on Friday at the Coliseum that had extended their losing streak to four games.
The Komets had their most beautiful play of the season to take a 2-1 lead just 18 seconds into the second period; a tic-tac-toe passing play that saw Anthony Petruzzelli drop the puck to Justin Hodgman, who sent a crossing pass to Marco Roy for a shot into an open net.
(Video highlights are above.)
After another Kea fight – with Toledo’s Kevin Tansey – the Walleye tied it at 15:37 on a Shane Berschbach power-play goal than came courtesy of a Hensick cross-ice pass.
There was yet another fight, this time between Fort Wayne’s Chris Rygus and Toledo’s Bryan Moore, after which the latter showboated his way off the ice, and that fired up the home crowd. The Walleye players responded with another goal at 7:21, just after a Fort Wayne penalty had expired, as Smith snapped in a shot from the left circle for a 3-2 lead.
Notes: While Dennis Eckersley was throwing the first pitch to Kirk Gibson in Los Angeles before Game 4 of the World Series in Los Angeles, recreating their famous moment from 30 years ago, Kirk’s son Kevin was on the ice at the Huntington Center for the Komets. … The Komets remained without captain Jamie Schaafsma (upper body), Garrett Ladd (concussion) and Phelix Martineau (undisclosed). They also scratched Jason Binkley and Aidan Muir.