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K’s make own breaks, win 3rd straight

November 25, 2018

Justin Hodgman fired the puck from the left circle and it caromed off the pad of Cincinnati goaltender Michael Houser, went through the legs of two Cyclones defensemen and on to the stick of Komets forward J.C. Campagna. He then rifled the puck from a difficult angle into the net.

The response from Houser typified the night: He spun around on the ice clockwise in frustrated disbelief.

This was just the type of play : a mix of luck and skill : the Komets couldn’t will themselves into a week before. But throughout their three-game winning streak, including Saturday night’s 3-2 victory over the Cyclones at Memorial Coliseum, it has seemed happenstance.

So what’s changed for the Komets (8-8-0), who are back at .500 for the first time since the second game of the season?

“I think it was just our work ethic and just our sticking to a game plan,” Campagna said. “We talked all week, and we worked all week in practice, on five guys being connected and coming out as a team. We came out and executed that three nights in a row, and we came out with six points from the week and that’s big for us.”

The Cylones (12-4-2) came in atop the Western Conference and with a five-game winning streak. But they didn’t get a shot past Zach Fucale until Jesse Schultz’s power-play goal 18:33 into the third period, after the Komets had built a three-goal lead. Pascal Aquin scored with 10 seconds left in the game.

Fucale had his second consecutive solid start, stopping 24 shots, making him 3-4-0 with a 3.54 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage.

“After losing both games last weekend, we had to take a look in the mirror. There were some hard practices and guys bought in. They competed hard in practice,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “I thought it carried over to the games.”

Houser, who helped the Komets to Game 7 of the Western Conference finals last season, stopped 28 of 31 shots.

Fort Wayne’s captain, Jamie Schaafsma, opened the scoring 5:21 into the game by getting to the rebound of an Alexander Kuqali shot at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.

Nineteen seconds later, Jason Binkley’s cross-ice pass was driven into the back of the net by Shawn Szydlowski, last season’s ECHL MVP and leading scorer.

In seven games since returning from Norway, Szydlowski has one goal and eight points.

Campagna’s goal came 3:46 into the second period, giving Hodgman a point in 14 of the Komets’ 16 games.

“It kind of came off the goalie’s shoulder and I didn’t really see it, and then it came through (two) guys’ feet,” Campagna said. “But Hodgie that whole shift, he was working to get open for me, and he did a great job. Once I got it to him, he threw it on net and I think we just got rewarded for working hard that shift.”

Hodgman has six goals and 24 points, tying him for second in ECHL scoring behind Utah’s Caleb Herbert’s 29 points.

Notes: Phelix Martineau made his American Hockey League debut with the Laval Rocket in a 4-2 loss to Charlotte. He had one shot and a boarding penalty. ... The Komets raised $19,000 for the nonprofit Honor Flight Northeast Indiana through their jersey auction Nov. 2 and 3, when they played as the Blacksnakes, honoring the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard.

jcohn@jg.net

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