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Komets edge Wings in game with playoff feel

By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel<br /> <br /> Komets forward Mike Embach watches his late-first period deflection hit the back of the net behind Kalamazoo goaltender Nick Riopel. It turned out to be the game-winning goal in a 1-0 Fort Wayne decision.
By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel

Komets forward Mike Embach watches his late-first period deflection hit the back of the net behind Kalamazoo goaltender Nick Riopel. It turned out to be the game-winning goal in a 1-0 Fort Wayne decision.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Fort Wayne wins "series" 2-1 to end regular-season rivalry

Friday, February 17, 2017 09:09 pm
Playing their third game in a row against the Kalamazoo Wings, the Komets used a late-first period deflection from Mike Embach and 21 saves from Pat Nagle to win 1-0. Judging by the stick work and chatter, it looked like the teams were a little tired of each other. It was nasty like only two teams who know each other too well can be. "We came into this little mini-series pretending it was a playoff series," Fort Wayne defenseman Dan Milan said. "Their team has been hot lately, too, so it's good to get two out of three. I think the score was a playoff score, too. It was a lot of hard work and grinding in the O-zone and the D-zone."

Fort Wayne's defense held Kalamazoo to 11 shots during the first two periods, but the Wings made a good push in the third to come up with 10 and produce a few more scoring chances on Nagle.

"We knew it was going to be a playoff feel," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "What a good defensive game. You could see two teams knew each other very well. I thought both teams defended well and both goalies played well. I think what it came down to tonight was a big PK, kill off the 5-on-3, and Nags was huge. He made the saves that we needed him to. We did a good job of bending, not breaking and that's what you have to do sometimes."

This was the last regular-season game between the two long-time rivals with the Komets holding a 5-4 season edge. It's possible the teams could meet in the real playoffs in April.

Embach's deflection in front off assists from Brett Perlini and Cody Sol was just one of several chances the Komets had early. They spent a lot of time in front of the Kalamazoo net, but Nick Riopel continued his strong play against Fort Wayne this season. He was 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals against and .953 save percentage against the Komets this season and made 24 saves.

"I could have had a hat trick in the first period," Embach said. "It's nice to feel like every shot you have has a chance to go in. Just have to get in the spots and get more of them. The whole mantra this week was we're out their sandbox and you have room to move so they can't bog you down in our own end. Use our speed everywhere we could. It was fun."

Embach has six points in his last seven games, and the Komets need some more scoring touch with Jamie Schaafsma sitting out with a hand injury, and Shawn Szydlowski and Kyle Thomas playing in the American Hockey League. They'll probably need a few more scores against Brampton tonight. The Beast are 7-1 over their last eight games and are 3-0 against the Komets this season. Fort Wayne is an ECHL-best 18-5-0 at home.

"We haven't scored enough in the last couple of games," Graham said. "Fortunately, tonight it was enough. Against a very offensive-minded team in Brampton, it's going to be a challenge. We have to not only be good defensively, but we have to find a way to generate more offense."

The Komets will retire the No. 91 jersey of Brampton coach Colin Chaulk before the game.

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

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