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Komets stay gritty up front in win

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

All four goals came within 10 feet of the goal

Friday, January 20, 2017 09:33 pm
Going to the net is where hockey players take the most punishment, but it's also where they get the most reward. The Fort Wayne Komets scored all their goals from within 10 feet of the net Friday night in a 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones before a rowdy Memorial Coliseum crowd of 8,855 on Superhero Night. The Komets always seemed to be flying into the mask of the Cincinnati goaltenders. It's been a constant theme of late from Komets coach Gary Graham.

"We've talked about how many goals we score on the back post, and guys are understanding that if they get to the net, that's where we're going to score goals," said Komets captain Jamie Schaafsma who had a goal and an assist. "Right now, I like the way we are playing, I like our hustle out there and I think we're playing with a lot of intensity. It looks like everyone is working hard. When we're playing like that, we're going to be hard to beat."

There's a lot to like. The Komets out-shot the Cyclones 31-26, back-checking consistently. As an example, during an early first-period Cincinnati rush, 10th forward Taylor Crunk hustled back to break it up. The Komets did a pretty good job at controlling the front of the net at both ends.

"We've been emphasizing getting the pucks to the point and for them to look for tips and just getting pucks to the net," Crunk said. "We've been throwing it at the net, and it's been working out."

It was obvious the larger Cincinnati defensemen were having trouble keeping the pesky Komets forwards away from the crease. Mason Baptista scored twice, both on tips, one off a deflection off a Devin Mantha shot, and then off his skate from a Jason Binkley shot.

"I've been focusing on getting to the net," Baptista said. "Playing the role I'm playing is about providing energy and trying to get the team going. Just getting to the net has been a big theme. You watch the NHL highlights and they all end up in front of the net, and that's critical if you want to score goals."

Baptista is sort of like the Komets flexible forward because he can play any position up front. He doesn't play every game, but he always provides a strong effort when he goes.

"I get so happy when he gets rewarded, because the kid is probably the hardest-working guy (on the team)," Graham said. "(At practice), he's on the ice first, after the practice he's working his tail off. He's a great teammate, he's supportive when he's out of the lineup. He's very coachable. He's a guy I think can get hot with confidence."

Binkley remains hot with five points over his last three games and 10 over his last 12 games from the blueline. Schaafsma has 15 points over his last 19 games, and Garrett Bartus made 24 saves to improve to 10-3-1 with a 2.43 goals against average and .910 save percentage. Some of his saves Friday were spectacular.

The Komets will need more of that energy during a five-game road trip which starts tonight in Kalamazoo and continues Sunday in Brampton before heading to Elmira and Reading next week. It's Fort Wayne's last long road string of the season.


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