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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Gabriel Desjardins looks to take a shot at the net in the first period against the Walleye at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Taylor Crunk moves the puck between Walleye defenders in the second period at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Addison Agen, runner-up on NBC’s “The Voice,” waves at fans after singing the national anthem before the start of the Komets game at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Justin MacDonald sets up a play in the first period against the Walleye at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets center Logan Nelson and Walleye center Christian Hilbrich face-off in the second period at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Addison Agen, runner-up on the NBC television show "The Voice" sings the National Anthem in front of an audience at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets left wing Gabriel Desjardins celebrates after hitting a goal in the second period at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.  

Sunday, December 31, 2017 10:40 pm

K's finish 2017 with shutout

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Shawn Szydlowski keeps on tearing opponents apart.

And so do the Komets.

Szydlowski netted two goals and took over the ECHL’s scoring lead. His Komets once again defeated their rivals, the Toledo Walleye, getting a 3-0 New Year’s Eve victory in front of a sellout crowd of 10,479 at Memorial Coliseum.

The Komets (20-8-2) have won 15 of their last 18 games, improved to 5-1-0 this season against the Walleye (20-9-3), and climbed to within one point of Toledo for the Central Division lead with two games in hand.

Michael Houser stopped 37 shots for the shutout and the Komets haven’t allowed a goal in 126 minutes, 31 seconds of action. Teammate Garrett Bartus had stopped 34 shots in Saturday’s 5-0 victory over the Quad City Mallards in Moline, Illinois.

The Komets have won three straight games since Wednesday’s 5-3 loss at Cincinnati, after which coach Gary Graham demanded his players start sacrificing more, and clearly they have answered that call.

“After Cincinnati was kind of a come-to-reality type of meeting,” Graham said. “In order to beat better teams, in order to really start winning consistently, we had to start giving more. The one thing we weren’t doing a good job of was blocking shots, plays of desperation, things like that. Over these last three games, we had more blocked shots than we probably had the whole summation of the entire beginning of the season. You can’t tell me there’s not a correlation.”

Szydlowski, who has played 26 games this season, now has 18 goals and 39 points, one more than Colorado’s Michael Joly and Allen’s Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who have both played more often.

Szydlowski has at least one point in 19 of his last 21 games.

“Szyd, we know what he can do. He can score from anywhere in the offensive zone pretty much,” said Houser, who complimented the depth and balance of his team. “(Mason Baptista) was the 10th forward at the start of the year, in and out of the lineup, and now he’s Szyd’s center. It shows the balance that we have. Not everyone is a scorer – (Taylor) Crunk isn’t going to go down and shoot the same way Szyd does – but everyone knows their job and that’s why we’re winning right now.”

Both the Komets and Walleye were looking to win for the third time in as many nights, and Toledo goalie Matej Machovsky stopped 22 shots in the loss as Pat Nagle was again on the bench against his former team.

Toledo tallied 10 of the first 18 shots, but there was still a buzz in the air after Fort Wayne’s Addison Agen, the Concordia student who was runner-up on the recent season of NBC’s “The Voice,” sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Szydlowski opened the scoring 3:37 into the second period for the Komets by redirecting a Cody Sol pass from the right circle.

Gabriel Desjardins scored at 13:10 for a 2-0 lead, getting to a puck that banked off the left-side boards, and then sending a shot from the circle into the far side of the net. He has three goals and seven points in the last five games.

Szydlowski’s second goal of the night came 18:01 into the second period on a shot from the right circle.

“That’s two goals against in the last three games and both goalies played phenomenally,” Graham said, “and for me, I’m very proud of the group, very proud of the group.”

Notes: The Komets played without captain Jamie Schaafsma (illness), Marco Roy (with Utica of American Hockey League), Artur Tyanulin (Tucson of AHL), Zac Larraza (leg) and Justin Hodgman (shoulder). … Former MLB player and manager Kirk Gibson attended the game. His son, Kevin, plays for the Walleye. … The referee was Liam Sewell.

jcohn@jg.net