Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Mason Baptista, rear, carries the puck while Toledo's Justin Kea defends him at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Justin Hodgman carries the puck during the second quarter against the Toledo Walleye at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Phelix Martineau controls the puck while Toledo's Matthew Register defends him during the second period at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette Fort Wayne’s Phelix Martineau chases after the puck during the first period against the Toledo Walleye.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette the The Komets' J.C. Campagna carries the puck during the first period against Toledo Walleye at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Shawn Szydlowski chases the puck during the first period against the Toledo Walleye at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Jake Kamrass gets into a fight with Toledo's Michael Moffat during the second period at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette The Komets' Jake Kamrass has to be held back from fighting Toledo's Michael Moffat during the second period at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Sunday, March 10, 2019 1:00 am
Komets 4 Toledo 1
'Highlight goal' helps get Komets a victory
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Mason Baptista had never scored a goal like this. And, almost certainly, he never will again.
His Komets teammate, Ryan Lowney, had fired the puck from the blue line and Baptista swatted the puck out of the air with his forearm – at least he claimed it was with his forearm – to send the puck between the legs of Toledo's Matt Register, the ECHL's reigning Defenseman of the Year. Baptista then dived blindly around Register to the ice, swatting his stick to flick the puck past goaltender Kaden Fulcher.
Baptista had given the Komets a one-goal lead in what would ultimately become a 4-1 victory over their rivals in front of 9,519 fans at Memorial Coliseum, though Toledo argued unsuccessfully that the goal should have counted because Baptista had made a hand pass.
“I actually didn't get my hand around it; it hit my forearm,” Baptista said after the Komets' third straight victory. “I saw Lowney had shot it and I thought, 'OK, I've just got to knock this thing down and get to open space.' We practice little plays in front of the net all the time – nothing anything in particular like that – but again that's where all that work in front of the net happens and you have to let that skill just take over sometimes.”
Earlier in the game, referee Jesse Gour had called a penalty on Fort Wayne defenseman Josh Elmes for closing his hand on the puck on a harmless mid-air catch at the blue line, so if Baptista did indeed throw the puck, he deserves extra credit for subterfuge.
“That was a highlight goal for sure. That was a big one for us,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “And it's good to see a guy like Baps, who is always working hard and trying to do the right things, to get a goal like that.”
The Komets cemented the victory on a third-period breakaway goal from Shawn Szydlowski and a goal by J.C. Campagna, who put on the brakes to let sliding Toledo defenseman Brenden Kotyk slide by before snapping a shot past Fulcher.
Fulcher had 25 saves. Zach Fucale stopped 29 for Fort Wayne, which looked remarkably different from the previous meeting between the teams – an 11-0 victory by the Walleye in Toledo, Ohio, on March 2.
“I thought (Fucale) tracked the puck really well and they had a lot of big bodies right in front of him,” Graham said. “I thought he was seeing the puck really well. ... He's been really good the last couple nights and, overall, I think we're starting to play a better style of defense in front of him, too.”
Early in the week, Komets general manager David Franke said making the playoffs “would be a great accomplishment,” given how inconsistent his team has been this season. Fort Wayne (29-20-9) is now only seven points back of Toledo (33-17-8) for the second of four playoff spots in the Central Division with 14 regular-season games remaining. The Komets have a three-point cushion on Kalamazoo, which it defeated 3-2 on Friday thanks to Phelix Martineau's end-to-end rush for an overtime goal.
Passing by Martineau and Lowney helped set up Szydlowski for an early power-play goal Saturday on a shot from the top of the left circle. The Walleye tied it at 1 when Tyler Spezia grabbed the rebound of a Dylan Sadowy shot from mid-air, circled the net and slipped the puck inside the far post.