The Komets went to Wichita, Kansas, hoping for at least a split. They got that, despite losing 5-2 to the Wichita Thunder on Wednesday.
The best-of-5 Western Conference Semifinals series is tied at 1.
Fort Wayne’s Dylan Ferguson stopped 31 shots. Wichita’s Evan Buitenhuis stopped 29.
The first two games of the series – including the Komets’ 3-2 victory Tuesday decided by an Anthony Nellis goal with 25 seconds left – were played at the Wichita Ice Center because INTRUST Bank Arena was booked with “Disney on Ice.”
Game 3 of the series will be 8 p.m. Friday at Memorial Coliseum, where the Komets lost two of the three regular-season meetings between the teams, and Games 4 and 5 will be there, too, if necessary.
Wichita’s Anthony Beauregard, who was First Team All-League, opened the scoring with a shot from between the circles 9:19 into the first period. The Komets’ Justin Vaive tied during a power play just 2:06 later, banging in a shot from just outside the crease, after a tic-tac-toe passing play with Stephen Harper and Nellis, who had two goals in Game 1.
With Fort Wayne’s Mathieu Brodeur in the penalty box for cross-checking Beauregard, Wichita’s Noel Hoefenmayer netted a power-play goal on a one-timer from the top of the right circle for a 2-1 lead 8:28 into the second period.
Another Fort Wayne penalty – delay of game for shooting the puck out of play – set up the Thunder’s Jeremy McKenna to stickhandle around the Komets’ Matt Murphy and score a power-play goal for a 3-1 lead at 10:33.
One of the eccentricities of playing at the Thunder’s practice arena was glass that is shorter than regulation in some spots – resulting in three delay-of-game penalties for the Komets in Games 1 and 2 – and wider-than-usual Olympic-sized ice. One of the delays of game set the stand for the Komets’ A.J. Jenks to score a short-handed goal at 13:48, after teammate Anthony Petruzzelli dislodged the puck from Wichita at its blue line.
Fort Wayne’s power-play unit, the ECHL’s best during the regular season (at 25.9%), scored on 1 of 7 opportunities Wednesday. Wichita, which was second worst (14.3%), went 3 of 8.
The Komets’ penalty kill, which was the league’s best in the regular season (86.8%), has stopped 8 of 11 power plays in the series and has Jenks’ short-handed tally. The Thunder’s, which was No. 2 (86.4%), has stopped 8 of 9.
The Komets had a great chance to tie it 8:10 into the third period, but Mathieu Brodeur’s shot at the end of a 3-on-2 rush was covered by Buitenhuis, who later foiled Matthew Boudens and Vaive from point-blank range amid a slew of great late saves.
Fort Wayne’s Brandon Hawkins was injured on a hit from behind by Cam Clarke 12:45 into the third period, which didn’t draw a penalty but did start a fight between Clarke and Petruzzelli. Hawkins, the Komets’ leading scorer, needed help getting off the ice but returned to the game.
The Thunder’s Matteo Gennaro scored during a 5-on-3 power play for a 4-2 lead at 14:45 and Wichita added an empty-netter.
Notes: The referees were Sean MacFarlane and Logan Gruhl. … The Komets played without Shawn Szydlowski (hand), Jackson Leef, Oliver Cooper, Robbie Beydoun (knee) and Marcus McIvor (groin). … … The Thunder was without Stefan Fournier, Peter Crinella, Sean Allen, Riley McCourt and Garrett Schmitz. … The Allen Americans’ Les Lancaster was chosen as ECHL Defenseman of the Year by coaches, broadcasters, media-relations directors and reporters. Samuel Jardine of Greenville finished second, followed by Allen’s Matt Register, Wichita’s Dean Stewart and Indy’s Willie Raskob. … Tickets for the Komets’ second home playoff game – Saturday, if necessary, or in the next round – are now on sale at the Coliseum box office or through Ticketmaster. … Wichita coach Bruce Ramsay is now 4-12 all-time against Fort Wayne in the playoffs, 0-9 at the Coliseum.