The Komets are 9-1 all-time against the Utah Grizzlies in ECHL action. The K’s got there with a 9-1 victory – yes, in ice hockey – Friday night.
“We know that we’ve been struggling to produce some offense,” said Anthony Petruzzelli, one of seven different goals scorers for Fort Wayne, which needed only 25 shots on goal at West Valley City, Utah.
The Komets had scored only 17 goals in their previous nine games, though they still ranked second in the league with 3.29 goals per game before obliterating Utah’s defense.
“It was just one of those nights that things finally decided to click and it’s good to get back to our game headed into the playoffs,” Petruzzelli said.
Zach Pochiro had two goals and three assists. Stephen Harper had a goal and three assists. Brandon Hawkins scored twice with an assist. And the Komets also got goals from Oliver Cooper, Olivier Galipeau and Blake Siebenaler, as they dominated from start to finish in a game that had very little chance to impact future playoff matchups.
“The one point that we wanted to hammer home, and we’d been talking about for awhile without the results, was we want to be playing the right way down the stretch,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “And we put the emphasis – even if it doesn't mean anything in the standings, it means a lot for our confidence – on knowing that we can play the right way and have success.”
Oh, and because of injuries, the Komets started the game with only 18 players, one short of a full lineup, and then rested three more as the blowout wore on.
Dylan Ferguson, who’s now positioned to be the Komets’ goalie come the postseason, stopped all 22 shots he faced before he was replaced by newcomer Justin Kapelmaster with an 8-0 lead in the third period. Kapelmaster stopped 10 of 11.
Utah’s Peyton Jones stopped 10 of 15 shots before he was yanked in favor of Garrett Metcalf, who turned away 6 of 10 in front of 1,882 fans at the Maverik Center.
The teams finish the regular season with a game 9:10 p.m. today.
The Komets (29-16-5) will then face either the Wichita Thunder or Allen Americans – whichever isn’t the top seed – in a 2-3 formatted first-round, best-of-5 series that will begin on the road. Utah (34-26-11) is the fourth and lowest seed for the conference playoffs.
“Yeah, it's huge (to get momentum),” Petruzzelli said. “We've actually talked about it this last week and, you know, we’d been struggling a little bit. We focused on trying to be the best team we can and building that confidence going into the playoffs.”
The Americans’ 5-2 victory earlier Friday over the Rapid City Rush ensured the Komets cannot finish better than second in the conference.
The Komets’ home playoff games in the first round will likely be this Friday and, if necessary, June 12 and 14 at Memorial Coliseum.
“When we buy in – and it's something that we’ve talked about all year – (to) the details of everybody's executing as five guys on the ice, the details lead to success,” Boudreau said. “When we go off script and become individuals, that's when we get in trouble. So it was extremely important for us to come out here, find our groove. And tonight I thought we really found our groove.”
The Komets scored twice on their first five shots – Cooper stole the puck in the defensive zone, took off on a breakaway and scored on the rebound of his own shot; and Petruzzelli scored after a Hawkins centering pass from the corner – to make it 2-0 at 7:31 of the first period.
“We talked about managing pucks because this Utah team, they are very good and feed off that transition game and can skate very fast,” Petruzzelli said. “We were able to get pucks behind them and get down there, go to work, and play our game. It made it a lot easier.
Harper’s pass from the opposite corner set up Galipeau for a 35-foot shot and a 3-0 lead at 17:44. The Komets also had a 3-0 lead after the first period of Wednesday’s game and hung on for a 3-2 victory over the Grizzlies.
This time, there would be doubts about the outcome. Hawkins (power play) and Siebenaler scored on back-to-back shots and it was 5-0 at 1:37 of the second period, after which Jones was pulled from the game.
Pochiro made it 6-0 from the slot, after Harper set him up from behind the Utah net, at 6:35, and Pochiro scored again, on a power play, for a 7-0 lead at 19:38.
Early Friday, the Komets signed Kapelmaster to replace netminder Robbie Beydoun, who is out at least a couple weeks with a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee suffered Wednesday.
Kapelmaster had played 19 games this season with the Allen Americans, a possible first-round playoff opponent of the Komets, going 7-10-1 with a 2.96 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage and two shutouts. He also played two games with Cleveland of the higher-level American Hockey League, going 2-0-0 with a 1.95 GAA and a .933 SP.
Beydoun is 7-3-0 with a 2.29 GAA, a .920 SP and one shutout. Ferguson is 6-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA, a .913 SP and one shutout.
He may have been injured when he was bowled over by a Utah player Wednesday and Ferguson was similarly crushed when Fort Wayne had an 8-0 lead early in the third period on Harper’s goal, setting up a 10-player melee.
Komets coach Ben Boudreau then pulled Ferguson to keep him from harm’s way and, almost immediately, Hawkins made it 9-0 with a power-play goal.
Notes: The Komets scored on 3 of 5 power plays. Utah was 0 for 4. … Shawn Szydlowski, who didn't make the trip to Utah, will join the team on the road before Game 1 of the playoffs, general manager David Franke said. Szydlowski needed to get his hand X-rayed on Tuesday and those were negative. Marcus McIvor, who has a groin injury, is less likely. … The Komets played without Szydlowski, Beydoun, McIvor, Justin Vaive, Matthew Boudens and Morgan Adams-Moisan. … The referee was Andrew Wilk. … If the Komets play Wichita, the series will start Tuesday. If they play Allen, it will start Monday or Tuesday.