The Fort Wayne Komets have struggled a bit the past few seasons with winning the first two games of a playoff series at home, but they have the Quad City Mallards just about pinned down.
The Komets’ defense smothered the Mallards for the second night in a row, holding them to just 18 shots in a 3-1 win to take a 2-0 lead in their ECHL playoff series. Quad City just isn’t getting many chances to score.
“I like the team right now,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “I think we are competing harder and we got better as the weekend went on, and we just want to keep improving.”
The Mallards couldn’t get more than six shots off in any period, and most of their scoring chances came on four power plays. Other than that, Quad City couldn’t get out of its own zone, giving up 37 shots for the second night in a row.
Quad City has mustered only 31 shots on Fort Wayne goaltender Pat Nagle in the two games. Fort Wayne’s forecheck has kept the Mallards in their defensive zone. Goaltender C.J. Motte has been excellent or the margins would have been much larger.
“Again for us, the better we are on the walls and the more aggressive we are typically the more turnovers we have and the more success we have in the offensive zone,” Graham said. “That’s a big part of our success. It doesn’t matter what the opponent is, the key to us is our forecheck.”
The Komets got goals from Mike Cazzola, Mike Embach and Jamie Schaafsma, with Cazzola, Embach and Kyle Thomas also getting an assists and Shawn Szydlowski two.
The next three games will be played at the iWireless Center in Moline, Ill., starting with Wednesday’s Game 3.
“They are competing, and their compete level is through the roof, and they are playing hard,” Quad City coach Phil Axtell said. “We have to play harder.”
The Komets are expecting nothing else.
“The biggest thing is we have some momentum right now and we have to keep it,” Graham said. “They are going to be very excited to go back to their home rink now. We just have to go there and keep playing the same way.
“We cannot think for one second we’re going to get a lax opponent over there. They are going to be emptying the tank over there.”