Facing another must-win situation, this time on home ice, the Komets took far too long to get their legs under them tonight. And they were foiled by something that has nagged them all season – turnovers in their own zone – in losing 4-1 to the Toledo Walleye at Memorial Coliseum.
Toledo advanced with a 4-2 series victory and will face the Cincinnati Cyclones, the ECHL's regular-season champions, in the Central Division finals.
The Komets, meanwhile, will face many questions about the future of their roster and coaching staff following a tumultuous season, even if they made the playoffs for the 20th time in the last 22 years and won 5-3 in Game 5 at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio.
Goaltender Zach Fucale, who kept the Komets in it during a lackadaisical first period, stopped 40 shots on a night most of the play was spent in their zone.
Pat Nagle stopped 23 for the Walleye, which got three goals, including an empty-netter, from Dylan Sadowy in the third period.
It was Nagle’s first series victory in the Fort Wayne-versus-Toledo rivalry; he lost as the Komets’ goaltender in 2016 and 2017 and as Toledo’s in 2018.
The Walleye opened the game with seven of the first eight shots, including a Bryan Moore redirection stopped by Fucale, an early power play because of a Kyle Hope slash, and a 4-on-2 rush.
It looked as if the Komets might finally get a good chance when Anthony Nellis had a breakaway, but Sadowy dove to swat the puck from his possession. Seconds later, Toledo’s Greg Wolfe got a breakaway but shot the puck way over the net.
The Komets had some chances in the first – a J.C. Campagna blast that caromed off goalie Pat Nagle’s mask and a Kevin Gibson wraparound attempt – but Toledo had 16 of the period’s 25 shots and scored when Chris Crane stole the puck from Chase Stewart, circled the net and sent a pass to Shane Berschbach for a 25-foot shot at 18:41.
Big hits by Jamie Schaafsma and Shawn Szydlowski early in the second period, and a Fucale sprawling save on Brenden Kotyk, seemed to wake up the Komets and the crowd of 5,4778.
Brady Shaw netted a power-play goal, off the rebound of a Campagna shot, to tie it at 10:38. A Crane holding penalty had put the Walleye in the short-handed situation. But just before Shaw scored, the referees gave Fort Wayne’s Schaafsma a penalty for boarding A.J. Jenks, who also got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to ensure it remained a Fort Wayne power play.
Just after the Komets tied it, Fucale preserved the momentum by Trevor Hamilton.
Another failure the Komets to clear the puck, again by Stewart, led to Toledo’s second goal, 3:57 into the third period, when Sadowy got to the rebound of his own shot and flicked it above a sprawled Fucale.
Shaw had a chance to tie it again with a breakaway 10:00, but he was slashed from behind by Ryan Obuchowski. Though the Komets argued for a penalty shot, they got only a power play and didn’t produce any offense, setting up Sadowy for his goal from the top of the left circle and a 3-1 lead at 12:44.
The Komets' annual end-of-season party will by Thursday with the jersey auction beginning at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum.
Notes: The Komets played with the same lineup as Game 5, sitting all-star Justin Hodgman, Ryan Lowney and Craig Cescon. Part of the rationale: having Stewart and Cam Knight in the lineup gave them their only two right-handed shots on the blue line. … Toledo’s Jenks had missed a game with an injury but was back in, replacing Jordan Topping. … The referees were Alex Garon and Alex Normandin. … For the second straight game, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a scout at a series game. … The Colin Chaulk-coached Brampton Beast lost its series 4-2 to the Newfoundland Growlers, falling 3-2 in overtime in Game 6 on a power-play goal from Sam Jardine. Brampton’s Jonathan Racine set it up by taking a major penalty for charging with six seconds left in regulation time. Fort Wayne-native Jackson Leef plays for Brampton, which had won Games 4 and 5.