Komets’ season storylines
LOVELAND, Colo. : The Komets’ 66th season ended with the bitter disappointment of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Eagles in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday, but the playoff run was one of the most memorable in franchise history.
Here’s a recap of 10 things we won’t soon forget:
Desi’s dominance: Even though Shawn Szydlowski was voted the ECHL’s MVP during the regular season, the Komets’ players gave Gabriel Desjardins the team MVP. He showed why in the postseason by leading the league in scoring with nine goals and 20 points. Four of those goals were game-winners.
Zombo’s hit: It didn’t look that bad when it happened, but Cincinnati’s Dominic Zombo’s hit on Justin Hodgman in the playoff opener had repercussions that would last six weeks. He caught Hodgman in the back of the head and left the former NHL player with a concussion, and he wouldn’t play again.
Inspirational injuries: Several of the Komets’ top players battled through injuries : Szydlowski, Desjardins, Ryan Culkin : but Marco Roy was the most inspirational. Despite his ailing knees, he was blocking shots and scoring two game-winning goals, and getting his teammates to follow his lead.
Rookies rise: The short-handed Komets looked to players who had just entered the professional ranks. Phelix Martineau was one of their best players in the first round. Anthony Petruzzelli was dynamite in the later rounds. And Kevin McKernan stepped up when needed.
Beating Toledo: In the Central Division finals, the Komets finally got past their nemesis, the Toledo Walleye, with a 4-2 series victory. Stealing Games 1 and 5 at the Huntington Center, where they’d had so much trouble winning before, were particularly crucial.
OT trouble: The Komets won the playoff opener, 4-3 in overtime, thanks to a Jamie Schaafsma goal against Cincinnati. They would play four more overtime games and lose them all. Three of those OT losses came against the Eagles.
The pre-game fracas: The melee during warm-ups of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals was fallout from a Ryan Harrison hit on Fort Wayne goalie Michael Houser in Game 1. Dennis Kravchenko fought Gabriel Verpaelst, and Daniel Maggio fought Joey Ratelle, and 16 games worth of suspensions were handed out. The series might have been very different if those players had been available.
Houser’s heroics: Michael Houser truly won the love of Komets’ fans in the playoffs, when he stopped 91.4 percent of the shots he faced. He was at his best after the worst games, too. On the heels of Game 3 losses to Cincinnati and Toledo, he came up with 36- and 41-save wins that were epic.
Hard-to-believe loss: In Game 5 against Colorado, the Komets outshot the Eagles 54-36 and had one of their most dominant performances of the postseason. But great goaltending by Joe Cannata thwarted them in a 4-3 overtime loss, meaning they’d have to win twice in Colorado to make it to the finals.
Game 7 collapse: It was a caustic mixture of bad luck, fatigue and moxie by the Eagles, leading to another 4-3 overtime loss. The Komets held a 3-1 lead in the third period, thanks to a Szydlowski breakaway goal, but the comeback started when Fort Wayne’s Bobby Shea lost his helmet and had to leave the ice, setting up Matt Garbowsky for a goal. Then came a Joey Ratelle goal and overtime, when a controversial Kravchenko penalty set up Ryan Olsen for the goal that ended the season.
: Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette