For once, they didn't let the fish off the hook.
Trailing their ECHL playoff series 3-0, the Fort Wayne Komets survived several strong pushes by the Toledo Walleye before winning Friday night at Memorial Coliseum. The Komets needed help from all 7,162 fans in attendance to hold off the Walleye.
Game 5 is tonight in the Huntington Center with a potential Game 6 being played Monday if Fort Wayne can extend the series.
“It's great to get that first win and hopefully turn the momentum of this series around,” said Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma who scored twice. “We went in there and played two good games to start. I felt those games could have done either way, and we won a big game there late in the season, too. I think we are confident that we can win in their barn.
“We don't have a choice right now. Our backs are against the wall, and you're going to see our very best until the end. We're going to fight and we're just not going to give up. When our backs are to the wall, we're a very dangerous team, and we're going to do whatever we can to win this series.”
Besides Schaafsma's first two goals of the series, Shawn Szydlowski also scored his first, notching Fort Wayne's first power-play goal in the third period.
“We kind of earned that nickname the Comeback Komets this year, and what better time to prove that than when you're down 3-0 in the series,” Szydlowski said.
The Komets out-shot the Walleye 20-10 in the first period, but Toledo actually felt pretty god about surviving the onslaught. A too many men penalty allowed the Walleye to score a power-play goal late and take the momentum into the second period where the Komets were held without a shot on goal for the first 10 minutes.
Despite getting out-shot 11-4, Komets goaltender Pat Nagle kept his team in it. Though the rink seemed at times to shrink to just the area around him, Nagle just kept making saves and freezing the puck for faceoffs to give his team a breather. The game was Toledo's to take, but Nagle wouldn't let the Walleye have it.
He helped the Komets survive six Toledo power-plays, giving up only the one goal and making 34 saves. Fort Wayne finally broke through on Walleye goaltender Jeff Lerg, beating him stick-side three times instead of continually aiming for his glovehand as they did during the first three games.
Can the momentum of this win translate into tonight's game?
“Obviously, you want it to transfer over, but they have a chance to close us out on their home ice, so that's going to give them a lot of momentum,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “I can tell you right now our locker room is really excited. We're excited about embracing the opportunity to go over there in a tough rink, to win in a rink that nobody has won in in the playoffs and we need to get that one tomorrow. Just keep surviving a day at a time.”
The Walleye are 6-0 at home during the playoffs. The Komets were 1-3 there during the regular season before losing one-goal decisions in Games 1 and 2.
“I'm just looking forward to it,” Szydlowski said. “It's a cliché, but it's a game at a time, and I think we have more confidence going back to Toledo since we had two great games the first two games. We could have easily swept them in the series. It's just been a couple of mistakes and a couple of bounces.”
Now the Komets have to see if they can reel the Walleye in a little.
For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.
Fort Wayne at Toledo
(Walleye lead series 3-1)
Faceoff: 7:35 p.m.
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM