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Gardiner, Wings clip K’s

January 14, 2019 GMT

The Komets ran into arguably the hottest player in the ECHL : Reid Gardiner : and their winning streak crashed into a wall.

Despite a strong start that including Shawn Szydlowski scoring the game’s first goal, the Komets lost 5-3 today to the Kalamazoo Wings and their winning streak ended at five games, tied for their longest of the season.

Gardiner, who had a goal and two points, extended his point-scoring streak to 16 games : the longest in the ECHL this season : during which he’s totaled 27 points.

“I thought we generated enough scoring chances. Their goalie played well,” Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “You’ve got to give them credit, but we’ve got to find a way to score on those chances and be better on the opportunities that we get.”

Kalamazoo (16-18-2) scored on 2 of 4 power plays. Fort Wayne (21-15-1) was 0 for 7 at Memorial Coliseum, in front of 7,052 fans.

“Obviously, special teams were big. We didn’t take care of the power-play chances we had,” Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. “And they were opportunistic, winning a couple battles around the net on theirs.”

(Video highlights from the game are above.)

It was the first of back-to-back games between the teams, who meet again 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Coliseum.

The Komets were without their leading scorer and all-star, forward Justin Hodgman, for a second straight game. He injured his hand by unleashing a flurry of punches on the Indy Fuel’s Zach Miskovic in a 3-2 overtime victory Friday at Indianapolis and is said to be day-to-day.

With Zach Fucale up with the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, goaltender Lukas Hafner manned the Fort Wayne net for the third time in as many day and stopped 37 shots.

The Komets had 24 of the first 36 shots in the game, but that changed rapidly. Kalamazoo goalie Jake Hildebrand stopped 39 shots.

Hafner was aided by the first goal of the game, 9:42 into the first period, a snap from the top of the right circle by Szydlowski that snuck inside the upper left-hand corner of the net. Kalamazoo’s Zach Diamantoni tied it 18:27 by getting to Gardiner’s cross-ice pass and sending a shot into the bottom of the net.

After Fort Wayne’s Brady Shaw lost control of the puck in the offensive zone, Kalamazoo’s Jagger Dirk finished off an odd-man rush in the other end with a shot from 30 feet out over sliding defenseman Cody Sol for a 2-1 lead 6:07 into the second period.

A melee in the corner that began with Kalamazoo’s Colin Jacobs punching Jake Kamrass and resulted in a Wings power play because Kamrass and Szydlowski both got roughing penalties, too, led to a power-play goal from Gardiner on a shot from the top of the left circle for a 3-1 lead at 8:18.

Fort Wayne’s Ryan Siiro answered with a 30-foot shot that pegged the top-left corner at 11:50, but the Wings’ Chad McDonald made it 5-3 with a power-play goal 16:17 into the third period after Jason Binkley got a hooking penalty.

Kalamazoo’s Chris Collins added an empty-net goal, but Fort Wayne’s Marco Roy scored at 19:47.

“For us, it was a little concerning. You can talk about it being (our third game in three days), but I just didn’t like our third period,” Graham said. “It was still a one-goal game, a very winnable game for us. The urgency in the third period, you could tell that Kalamazoo was way more urgent with the way they were playing in the third.”

Notes: The ECHL told The Journal Gazette no discipline for Indy’s Radovan Bondra has been considered : he received a major penalty Friday for boarding Cody Sol and a minor for boarding Kevin Gibson : because the Komets haven’t asked for a review. Automatic reviews only happen after game misconducts or match penalties. ... The referee today was Liam Sewell. ... The Komets played without Taylor Crunk, who served the second game of his four-game suspension for punching Bondra at the bottom of a pile Friday. Also out were Jordan Sims (hip) and Trey Phillips (bereavement/family leave).