AP NEWS

Hodgman plays hero for Komets

April 7, 2019

The Komets have often found ways to lose games in the third period. On Saturday night, they found a way to win.

Afterseeing a four-goal lead dwindle to one, facing a barrage of shots along the way, Justin Hodgman patiently waited for Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Ty Rimmer to sprawl to the ice and flicked the puck into an open net to cement a 5-3 Fort Wayne victory with 2:28 remaining at Memorial Coliseum.

″(The Cyclones) just keep coming at you. They’re so good. You see the way they’re breaking out the puck, their chances on the rush, their plays in the (defensive) zone, they’re just a great team. So it was nice to find a way to win, for sure,” said Hodgman, whose team avoided another nightmarish result at home like the one that came Wednesday, when it gave up five unanswered goals in a 5-3 loss to the Indy Fuel.

“I think you could see the jitters there tonight. It kind of looked like, ‘Oh, the old habits are creeping in,’ but thankfully we got it together and closed it out.”

Hodgman, who had missed three of the previous four games with foot and hip injuries, had a goal and four points in front of 8,375 fans. Zach Fucale stopped 37 shots for Fort Wayne (35-26-1), which cemented the third of four seeds for the Central Division playoffs, making today’s 5 p.m. game at the Coliseum against the Wheeling Nailers meaningless for anything except momentum.

Asked about the team’s mentality heading into today, Hodgman said: “Win, always win, the mentality is always to win. These fans deserve the best product possible. I hope some guys who have been playing a lot get rest, but I definitely want to play and to work on my conditioning, after being out with an injury I’ve been dealing with, and I don’t think you can expect anything less than our best effort.”

By defeating the regular-season champion Cyclones (51-13-8), Fort Wayne ensured it will face the archrival Toledo Walleye in a best-of-7 series that starts Friday.

The Komets are expected to get forward Marco Roy back from Laval of the higher-level American Hockey League today.

“I thought we just played a hard, heavy game,” said Fort Wayne’s Kyle Hope, who scored from the left circle for a 4-0 lead after a Jake Kamrass drop pass. “We got pucks in (deep), managed the puck.”

The Komets also got goals from Ryan Lowney, Anthony Nellis and Shawn Szydlowski, who scored during a 5-on-3 power play. The Cyclones tallied 28 of the final 38 shots, getting goals from Pascal Aquin, Anthony Florentino and Alex Wideman (power play), along with 17 Rimmer saves.

“It was a good challenge for us,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “We’ve challenged ourselves a lot this year. How we handle those situations is important and there was a lot of desperate hockey. Fuchs made a lot of big saves at the back end of the third period and then getting that additional (Hodgman) goal was huge.”

Notes: For Marvel Superhero Night, the Komets wore “Black Panther” jerseys that will be auctioned off at www.meigray.com. ... The Indy Fuel’s Ryan Rupert, who injured Fort Wayne’s Sean Flanagan with a hit from behind, and then linesman Christopher Williams with a punch in the ensuing melee Friday, was suspended by the ECHL pending a review.

jcohn@jg.net