The Journal Gazette
Sunday, April 21, 2019 7:10 pm

Faith in players paid off for K's

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

TOLEDO, Ohio – The common theme among the Komets after their 5-3 victory Saturday at the Huntington Center was that they have faith in everyone on their roster, no matter who that may be – rookie or veteran.

Of course, coach Gary Graham had inserted Mason Baptista and rookies Anthony Nellis and Cam Knight into the lineup for the game, opting to sit all-star Justin Hodgman, Ryan Lowney and Craig Cescon.

“The guys are here for a reason. They made the playoff roster for a reason,” Graham said.

Graham gave no indication of who will be in his lineup Tuesday, when the Komets again face a must-win situation. They are down 3-2 in the best-of-7 Central Division semifinals heading into the game at Memorial Coliseum.

But one player who almost certainly will be: Mason Baptista, who may have been the best player on the ice Sunday and scored a goal.

“It’s nice to see a guy like Baps get back in the lineup and have some success,” Graham said. “The kid just absolutely battled and competed like no other tonight and it was nice to see him have some success.”

The Fort Wayne power play converted on 3 of 6 opportunities after going 1 for 17 in the first four games.

“It was night and day,” Graham said of the power play. “The guys executed. (Assistant coach Ben Boudreau) has been working extremely hard with the guys on the power play and we’ve tried to stay positive with it. Obviously, there have been some deficiencies on it, but (Saturday) they were spectacular.”

The power-play goals came from Baptista off a rebound, Brady Shaw on a snap shot from the top of the right circle and J.C. Campagna on a shot from nearly the same spot.

“We made some adjustments,” Shaw said. “But more than anything, I’d say it was bearing down. Passes were on the tape and guys were going where they’re supposed to go and battling off the faceoff to make sure we had possession before you go to your position. That paid off for us.”

The Komets also converted on a 5-on-3 power play after Toledo had already done the same, getting a Matt Register goal from the top of the left circle on a night the Walleye was 1 for 5 to go to 6 for 24 in the series.

“That’s a tough thing. We take that 5-on-3 and they score. Then we get a 5-on-3 and it’s like, ‘Well, now we’ve got to score,’” Graham said. “What a shot (by Campagna). And the work that Marco Roy did hounding that puck to get it set up and get it to J.C., to get it to that point, there were just a lot of things away from the puck that the guys worked hard on.”

-- If you are about omens, remember this: Tom Didier sang the national anthem before Game 3, which the Komets won 2-1 in overtime, and Jensen Snyder before Game 4, which they lost 5-2. Normally, I am superstitious, but I’d like to see full statistics on Snyder nights, since she seemed to be a good luck charm last season.

-- After this season, I never want to hear a coach or player try to tell me they don’t read newspapers. We already established Graham and his players do. Toledo’s Dan Watson said on the Walleye’s BCSN postgame show Sunday: “Teams that have their backs up against the wall aren’t easy to beat and you have to try and get on them early. They created a little momentum for themselves here tonight with three power-play goals, and empty-net goal. If you read the quotes from their coaches and what they feel, it’s that they create momentum on positive things and we gave them a little bit of that. We’ve just got to make sure that we go there on Tuesday night and we steal it back.”

-- If you haven’t been paying attention, the Colin Chaulk-coached Brampton Beast is down 3-2 to the Newfoundland Growlers heading into Game 6 at St. John’s. Fort Wayne-native Jackson Leef plays for the Beast, which was down 3-0 before winning 4-1 and 8-2 in the last two games.

-- Kalamazoo is down 3-2 to Cincinnati in the other Central Division series, the Wings having won 2-1 on Saturday. Unlike the Fort Wayne vs. Toledo series, that one is a 2-3-2 format, so the next two games will be in Cincinnati.


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