FORT WAYNE, IN — For one period, the Komets decided puck possession was overrated. However, they were able to overcome their mistakes and rout the Quad City Mallards by a final score of 5-1 Friday night at the Coliseum.
During the opening 20 minutes, Fort Wayne had three giveaways in their defensive zone that led to quality chances for the Mallards. Goaltender Eric Hartzell stoned two attempts and watch one shot sail wide, but the problem was obvious.
“That was actually the whole conversation after the first period,” Komets coach Gary Graham said of the miscues. “We had a record amount of 11 turnovers in the first period; fortunately, they didn’t end up in the back of the net, but that was a big problem that we had. Even though we outshot them 2:1 in the first, the scoring chances were tied 7-7.”
The lone marker went to Fort Wayne, though.
Garrett Thompson deflected a pass at the point and earned one of the Komets’ numerous odd-man rushes. Two Mallards defenders caught up, but Thompson spun a behind-the-back pass to Shawn Szydlowski in front of the net for the Komets’ first goal.
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While the assist extended Szydlowski’s point streak to eight games, the winger wasn’t finished.
In the second period, he dished the puck to Cody Sol, who flipped a backhander to Trevor Cheek in the left slot. Cheek’s wrister beat Vay glove side and gave Fort Wayne a 2-0 edge.
Both Szydlowski and Sol notched their team-leading ninth assist on the goal, which began with another odd-man rush.
“There’s some things you can do obviously to create that,” Graham said about the opportunities. “But we got a couple lucky bounces too that sprung some of those.”
Just 18 seconds into the third period, however, the Mallards finally capitalized on a turnover. Michael Parks was all alone in front after a pass from Alex Gudbranson, cutting the deficit in half.
But Quad City would get no closer.
Less than four minutes later, Kyle Thomas chased down a rebound to score his sixth goal of the campaign.
Then, Cheek made the play of the night. He skated through three defenders and copied Thompson’s pass, finding a wide-open Jason Binkley. Vay was caught out of position, allowing Binkley to poke in an easy goal—his second of the year—for a 4-1 lead.
“I heard [Binkley] calling for it. I didn’t necessarily know where he was exactly,” Cheek said, “but I knew he was going to the net hard so I thought I’d throw it out there and it ended up working out nicely.”
Cheek added a short-handed breakaway with 43 seconds remaining in the contest to wrap up the 5-1 victory.
“He was on fire,” Graham said of Cheek, whose three points lifted his season total to 10 in just seven appearances.
Fort Wayne jumped to 8-3-2-0 behind Hartzell’s 31-save effort.
Quad City’s loss snapped a four-game point streak, and the team dipped to 7-4-0-1.