TOLEDO, Ohio – After being dominated in game four of the Central Division Semifinal, the Fort Wayne Komets came into game five on the brick of elimination versus the Toledo Walleye. To shake things up and to light a fire under his team, Komets Coach Gary Graham sat top forward Justin Hodgman and defenseman Craig Cescon and Ryan Lowney. Fort Wayne would respond through the adversity with a 5-3 win on Saturday night, sending the series back to Fort Wayne after a back-and-forth game.
The main difference in the game is how Fort Wayne found their power play scoring. After going 1-for-17 on the man advantage this series, the Komets would get a special teams goal early with a power play tally from forward Mason Baptista at 18:22 of the first period. Unlike the rest of the series, Fort Wayne would keep its momentum going as positive rookie Anthony Nellis would make it 2-0 early into the second period at 2:23. More rookie scoring was found in new Walleye forward Zach Gallant on a long shot, making it 2-1. Gallant continues to impress in this series, scoring four times in five games played.
Fort Wayne would keep the pressure going midway through the second, as Brady Shaw would score again on the power play after Toledo’s Trevor Hamilton went off for tripping. While the Walleye were on a 5-on-3 (Komets’ Shawn Szydlowski took a penalty for tripping and Kevin Gibson for high-sticking), defenseman Matt Register (in his 105th game playoff game) would score a power play goal to cut into the deficit again and keep it a one-goal game.
More of the same happened in the third period as Fort Wayne and Toledo both traded goals. J.C. Campagna scored for the Komets, while defenseman Kevin Tansey scored for the Walleye. Fort Wayne would eventually seal the game as Anthony Petruzzelli would score the empty-net goal to make it a 5-3.
A big part of Fort Wayne’s win (and who’s keeping them in the series) is Zach Fucale. After backstopping the Komets to 41 saves in the game three win, Fucale stopped 35 shots in game five, including 19 in the second period. Another key reason why Toledo didn’t earn the win Saturday night was undisciplined play for the first time in the series. The Walleye took nine minor penalties in game five, with Fort Wayne going 3-for-6 on the resulting power play chances.
Toledo was always within striking distance of Fort Wayne, but the Walleye were never in control, playing by far their worst game of the series. Give a lot of credit to the Komets, who really stood up when a lot of people didn’t think they would.
The series now shifts back to Fort Wayne for game six on Tuesday night at 7:35pm ET.