The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 06, 2020 1:00 am

K's unhappy with suspensions

Stewart, Haas to sit 6 games after Friday's brawl

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The ECHL doled out harsh discipline Wednesday for the Komets and Jacksonville Icemen, who had engaged in a brawl Friday, and the Komets weren't enthused with the adjudication.

Three players were suspended a total of 28 games, the bulk of it given to Icemen captain Emerson Clark for his actions in the 5-4 overtime victory that included 29 penalties for 136 minutes.

Clark was suspended 16 games for his physical abuse of an official and being a repeat offender in the ECHL's eyes. Fort Wayne's Chase Stewart was suspended six games for physical abuse of an official and fighting off the playing surface. Fort Wayne's Kyle Haas got six games for fighting off the playing surface.

“I disagree with the length (of our suspensions) and don't necessarily disagree with what (my players) did from the bench because they were protecting their teammates,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “We never went out seeking to start a brawl, or initiated or instigated starting a brawl. We were trying to win a hockey game. We reacted accordingly to their verbal or physical threats.”

The suspended players were also fined undisclosed amounts, as was Fort Wayne goaltender Patrick Munson.

The teams had jawed at center ice during warmups; the first period saw fights by Fort Wayne's Stewart, Haas, Matthew Boudens, and Gabriel Verpaelst and Jacksonville's Clark, Chris Lijdsman, Dalton Thrower and Ian McKinnon; and the second-period brawl was the point of analysis by the league.

Munson was coming off the ice for a delayed penalty when Clark charged into him, inciting a melee in front of the Fort Wayne bench that included Stewart and Haas unleashing a flurry of punches from behind the boards with an official getting in the fray. Clark refused to be escorted off the ice, tried to break away from a linesman and ultimately pulled the official's jersey over his head.

All of this was fallout from overtime of the Komets' 3-2 victory Thursday, when Jacksonville's Dajon Mingo knocked Fort Wayne's leading scorer, Brady Shaw, out of the game in overtime with a head injury.

No penalty was called and the ECHL's senior vice president of hockey operations, Joe Ernst, determined before Friday's game that no supplemental discipline was necessary, a sore spot for the Komets.

“We will have to live up to the league's suspension of our players,” Komets President Michael Franke said Wednesday. “There are always a consequence to these types of situations. Sadly, it should have never come to this. But we can't change that.

“I'm proud of the fact that the guys stood up for each other and I would expect them to do the same if it ever happened again.”

The Komets (21-16-8), who play Friday at Kalamazoo (16-21-6) are also without Shaw (concussion), Brett McKenzie (wrist), Shawn St-Amant (upper body), Brad Morrison (upper body), Max Gottlieb (lower body) and Dylan Ferguson (illness).

Losing Stewart and Haas complicates their roster decisions moving forward.

“It's a massive blow,” Boudreau said. “It's the most crucial stretch of the season. It's a kick in the nuts right now. Not only do you (lose) two good defensive, tough players in real important divisional matchups, but they also occupy roster spots. In a 20-man active roster, now they're stuck there. They've got to factor into every single decision.

“No matter what, for the next three games, we're going to play a man short (of a full lineup) because we can't take two guys off the salary cap. Their suspensions impact how many guys we can dress and it will have a direct impact on the result of the games.”

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