The Journal Gazette
Saturday, February 29, 2020 11:40 pm

Oddest of nights ends with K's victory

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

TOLEDO, Ohio – You’re probably in for a weird night when the game is delayed because Aquaman, while rappelling from the rafters, gets his wig stuck and it takes about 9 minutes to get him untangled.

It didn’t stop there.

A Toledo Walleye power play was obstructed by a linesman’s whistle, which had been dropped during a faceoff, bouncing around the ice. The Komets’ Brady Shaw was brought down late in the game by a Toledo player grabbing him from the bench, though not everyone agrees Shaw was actually touched.

But the strangest thing to happen at the Huntington Center may have been this: The Komets were actually victorious.

Paced by Shawn St-Amant’s hat trick, the Komets won 5-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 8,312. It was Fort Wayne’s first victory in 10 meetings this season with its archrival, and it came a night after the Komets were walloped 7-1 here.

“Honestly we just regrouped after that game yesterday,” St-Amant said. “We came back and we had a meeting, and we talked about what was going on. Today, we kept things simple. We chipped the puck in, chipped the puck out, and it was just a simple game the way it needs to be. (Friday), we tried to do too much and you saw what happened. That’s why we regrouped today and we showed up.”

St-Amant broke a 2-all tie by scoring on a one-timer from the slot, courtesy of a Brady Shaw pass, and he made it 4-2 with a wraparound goal.

The Komets’ hopes of catching the Walleye for second place in the division are slim – Fort Wayne is seven points back with 14 games left in the regular season, and Toledo has four games in hand – but some confidence was certainly needed for Fort Wayne. The teams meet three more times and are probable first-round playoff opponents.

“It’s one game, but it could be one of the most important games that we’ve played,” Fort Wayne coach Ben Boudreau said. “We’ve got a winning record against everybody in our division but (had) yet to beat Toledo. We know that if you want to accomplish something in the postseason, you’ve got to go through these guys.

"We know that we had to get over that hump, had to give ourselves that confidence in order to play the way we needed to play. It’s that confidence of knowing, ‘OK, we can beat them.’ I think it’s going to be a big relief going forward, knowing that we’ve got confidence going into the next game against them.”

Cole Kehler stopped 29 of 32 shots for Fort Wayne (28-22-8), and he was aided by defenseman Chase Stewart diving into the crease to deflect a Troy Loggins shot that seemed destined for the net.

Fort Wayne’s Drake Rymsha received praise in the locker room for an early fight with Loggins that set the tone for the game, which came after 315 days of Fort Wayne not having a victory over Toledo.

“Obviously, it was a big move,” St-Amant said. “Drake isn’t known to be a fighter, so to see a guy come back from Ontario (of the American Hockey League on Friday) and to care that much for this team, it was huge for us. It got the momentum on our side for sure, and it was fun to watch.”

Boudreau agreed.

“When you have somebody that’s not typically known for that, you know their heart’s in the right place. You know they want to fight for your team,” he said. “It’s not about that one individual fight, it’s about what it means to the team – that’s he’s willing to put his face on the line and battle for his teammates. I thought everybody picked him up and it was a huge spark for us.”

Toledo’s Filip Larsson stopped 24 of 28 shots, not including Anthony Petruzzelli’s late empty-netter.

Toledo (33-16-5) got two goals from Josh Kestner, who took over the ECHL’s goal-scoring lead with 29, and he cut Fort Wayne’s lead to 4-3 by splitting the defense, taking a pass from Shane Berschbach and snapping a 15-foot shot past Kehler at 8:43 of the third period.

Toledo’s chances of forcing overtime were thwarted when a player on its bench reached out and interfered with Shaw, as he headed down the boards looking for an empty-net goal at 18:41, though the Walleye claimed no contact was made. The incident resulted in a minor penalty.

Fort Wayne, which scored on 2 of 6 power plays, also got a goal from Shaw to make it 1-0. Toledo, 1 for 5 on power plays, got a goal from Brett Boeing.

“We knew we could beat those guys. But I don’t know what was happening,” St-Amant said. “We were fumbling pucks, I don’t know, and today makes it huge for us to get the first one out of the way. Now, we can build on this.”

The Komets, who are 1-7-2 against the Walleye, came in having had only led 16:27 of hockey in the season series.

The Komets are 7-4-0, so far, in their stretch of 14 straight divisional games that continues Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum against the Wheeling Nailers.

Toledo was celebrating a DC Comics Night, so it wore Batman jerseys in the first period, Aquaman in the second and Superman in the third, and that's why superheroes were rappelling from the rafters before the game.


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