FORT WAYNE, IN — The Komets scored first Wednesday night against the Toledo Walleye.
And that’s about where the good news ended for Fort Wayne.
Brett Perlini pushed the playoff-bound Komets (43-19-8) to the lead just 3:33 into the matchup, but the Central Division-leading Walleye (49-17-4) responded with six straight goals to snap their four-game losing streak.
“We did not do a good job blocking shots,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “We didn’t really do a good job helping our goaltenders out tonight. [The Walleye] were extremely opportunistic, and we were not. That was the storyline of the game.”
Toledo received two first-period markers from Simon Denis and added its next two in the second frame thanks to Alex Globke and Dane Walters. The fourth goal chased Komets goalie Pat Nagle, who managed 14 saves before Garrett Bartus entered.
Then a different sort of fireworks began.
Komets forward Shawn Szydlowski pushed Toledo goalie Cal Heeter to the ice, and J.P. LaFontaine stepped in to back up his netminder. The three, quite literally, were fighting inside of the Walleye net. Szydlowski received a 10-minute misconduct.
“[Heeter] got me with a decent [slash] in the first period and I saw him swinging at a couple other guys,” Szydowski said after the game. “It was kinda like we were curveballs left high in the strike zone tonight. He was just swinging at everybody.”
“I knew if he threw one at me I wasn’t going to let it go. I’ve been taken out of the playoffs by one of someone on their team before. And I won’t let it happen again.”
In a message to The Sin Bin after the game, Heeter said he felt Szydlowski had attempted to slew-foot him earlier in the shift and came back through the crease, at which time the goalie tried to slash the forward and missed, then Szydlowski responded with the shove.
The skirmish sparked a 126-second session of pushing, jawing and fighting.
Fort Wayne’s Kyle Thomas took offense to an uncalled punch to the face from Landon Oslanski, throwing the Toledo defender to the ice and unloading. Less than a minute after that, Cody Sol and Mike McKee dropped the gloves with McKee winning that battle.
After all that madness, Toledo took a 4-1 lead into the final frame while Fort Wayne struggled to capitalize on its odd-man chances.
“We had three 2-on-1s in the second period,” Graham said, “and we only got one shot off. We were just not making the most of our scoring chances. Their goalie made some real big saves when they needed to, and that’s really what it boils down to.”
The Walleye added two more goals in the third.
Evan Rankin buried his 27th of the season exactly two minutes into the frame, and Globke followed with another second goal 1:57 later.
Shane Berschbach, Nolan Zajac and Tyson Spink each notched two assists for the Walleye, who will face the Kalamazoo Wings in the opening round of the ECHL playoffs.
Jamie Schaafsma and Ryan Lowney provided the helpers on Perlini’s lone goal for the Komets. Fort Wayne closes the season with a back-to-back against the Quad City Mallards before facing the Central Division foes in the postseason.