Komets raise their intensity
Shawn Szydlowski took his game to a level that hadn’t been seen since last season, when he was the ECHL’s MVP and scoring champion for the Komets. He netted two goals and thwarted a Daniel Leavens breakaway Saturday for the Komets, who defeated the rival Toledo Walleye 5-2 to snap a three-game losing streak.
“I thought (Szydlowski) was fantastic. I thought he was the best player on the ice for both teams tonight,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “Obviously, he backchecks and forechecks and was physical. He did a lot of things creatively with the puck. He was the best player on the ice for both teams, but we had a lot of guys going. There were no passengers. We had a lot of guys going and that’s what we needed.”
The victory came after frustration simmered for Graham, captain Jamie Schaafsma and others in the organization because of Fort Wayne’s inconsistent play with Friday’s lackadaisical 5-3 loss to the Kalamazoo Wings.
″(This) was us being on the same page,” forward Mason Baptista said Saturday. “What’s been awesome is the coaching staff really gave us a great game plan. Our issue has been playing a full 60 minutes. Every game you saw 40 minutes of it, or 35 minutes or even 50 minutes. But 10-minute lapses, those little gaps in between, they caused us losses, and today was a full 60 minutes of everybody being on the same page.”
Szydlowski, who has four goals and 15 points in 17 games since returning from Norway, gave the Komets a 3-1 lead 11:27 into the second period by skating in from the right boards, putting a mystifying move on his former goaltender, Pat Nagle, and lifting a backhand shot into the top of the net in front of 7,023 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
Szydlowski spoiled Leavens’ chance to score with just 12 seconds left in the period, though Toledo’s Kevin Tansey scored on a one-timer early in the third period. Szydlowski cemented the victory for Fort Wayne (14-12-1) with a shot from the left circle at 18:31 of the third.
“The overall battle of the team (was better),” said Komets goalie Lukas Hafner, a native of Toledo. “Some of the guys’ backchecks and some of the things they were doing, I had a pretty easy night. In the second period, they had two shots. Toledo is a good team, but the work we showed tonight is the type of team we want to be the rest of the year.”
Fort Wayne’s Jake Kamrass, Anthony Petruzzelli and Jordan Sims scored off rebounds, though Nagle stopped 37 shots for Toledo (19-6-2).
A dizzying couple of days of transactions and headaches came to an end before the game when the Komets traded forward Justin Kea to the Orlando Solar Bears, who flipped him to the Walleye. Kea scored a power-play goal for Toledo on a redirection to tie it at 1.
The Komets owed the Solar Bears from the Tuesday trade that brought them Brady Shaw for Aidan Muir and future considerations, but it had been partially voided Friday when, according to general manager David Franke, Muir failed his Orlando physical. There was controversy surrounding this since Muir’s hand injury had passed muster enough for him to play at Western Michigan and for the Komets.
The shipment of Kea fulfilled the Shaw trade, Franke said, though the Komets still owe Orlando for the trade that got them Ryan Siiro. As for how Toledo got Kea, an email from the ECHL read: “We don’t release the particulars on trades as to not break news.”
A source told The Journal Gazette that Kea was acquired for future considerations. Muir was subsequently released by the Komets.