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Last updated: Sat. Apr. 12, 2014 - 06:33 am EDT

Komets happy to earn playoff spot with comeback

They wanted to earn their postseason chance with win

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For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

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Toledo at Komets

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m.

Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM

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After controlling their own destiny to make the playoffs, the Fort Wayne Komets now have to wait to see what everyone else does to find out whom they'll play.

Pretty much in a microcosm of the entire season, the Komets rallied from an early deficit, gained control, gave it up and then came through at the end Friday night. Christian Ouellet scored the game-winning goal with 2:55 left to beat Evansville 4-3 and clinch at least the No. 8 seed in the ECHL's Eastern Conference.

``We punched our ticket in the right way, on home ice, down heading into the third, come-from-behind on home ice,'' Komets coach Gary Graham said. ``I think if you look at the entire season, this long journey, we all know that the third period on home ice is the reason we are in the predicament we are in. It feels really good to punch our ticket in this way.''

But this was also unique in a couple of ways.

What's been the one thing all season they've been able to rely on? The penalty kill. But then Evansville scored two power-play goals in the first period.

What's been the one thing they have been horrible at all season? The power play. That's what Ouellet scored the decisive goal on.

As usual, the Komets made things a little harder than necessary by adding drama, especially when they trailed 2-0 after the first period.

``You have to believe in your teammates and worry about yourself,'' captain Kaliegh Schrock said about the early deficit. ``We didn't need home run plays, just a lot of little plays that added up to big things. We stayed calm and found a way to do it.''

There were a lot of little great plays. Scott Fleming's turnaround jumper of a knuckleball early in the third seized the momentum, and Ouellet continued it with two goals in front. After being lonely enough to read a book for the first half of the third, goaltender Ben Meisner had to make a couple big saves late to protect the lead.

``After Christmas, we were 12th or 13th in the playoff race, and we bonded because we wanted to make it,'' defenseman Jordon Southorn said. ``It's a great feeling tonight to win this.''

True, at Christmas it looked like the Komets were going to miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1974 and 1975. There were a ton of defections, trades and turmoil, but they regrouped to go 24-13-7 since Dec. 31. That would rank them in the upper half of the Eastern Conference since then, and they are 7-2-1 over their last 10 games, winning a ton of one-goal decisions as well.

But they still have to wait with everyone else to see who their opponent will be. It breaks down like this:

* If the Komets lose tonight at home to Toledo in regulation, they will be the No. 8 seed face defending ECHL champion Reading in the first round.

* If the Komets win and Wheeling loses in regulation, overtime or a shootout in Cincinnati, Fort Wayne moves into the No. 7 spot. The same is true if the Komets lose in overtime or a shootout and Wheeling loses in regulation.

* If the Komets get to seventh, they could play South Carolina which has completed its schedule. If Kalamazoo beats Evansville at home or loses in overtime or a shootout, the Wings would move to the No. 2 seed because they own the tiebreaker over the Stingrays.

* But if Kalamazoo loses in regulation, Orlando and Cincinnati can also tie South Carolina at 92 points with two wins over the weekend. If Kalamazoo loses in overtime or a shootout against Evansville, then four teams would have 92 points. The first tiebreaker is non-shootout wins, and Orlando would win the tiebreaker with 40 and face the Komets.

If Kalamazoo wins on Saturday, the Wings would have 93 points and make the tiebreaker discussion irrelevant as far as the Komets are concerned.

Whatever happens, the Komets say they still want to win tonight against Toledo to stay hot, and then they'll worry about their next opponent after that.

``It just feels good to be back,'' a relieved Schrock said. ``We should be here, but after missing last year, it's just good to be back.''

Box score

Friday

KOMETS 4, ICEMEN 3

Evansville*2*0*1*--*3

Fort Wayne*0*1*3*--*4

First period

Scoring: 1. E-Josh Beaulieu (Kevin Lynch, Thomas Larkin) 12:58; 2. E-Alex Aleardi (Austin Madaisky, Daultan Leveille) 15:43.

Penalties: E-Nathan Moon (slashing) 4:34; FW-Jordon Southorn (slashing) 4:34; E-Leveille (slashing) 6:32; FW-Matthew Maione (tripping) 12:20; FW-Brandon Marino (slashing) 15:15.

Second period

Scoring: 3. FW-Mike Embach (Aaron Clark) :45.

Penalties: FW-Joe Hartman (slashing) 5:43; E-Lynch (hooking) 10:12; FW-Embach (tripping) 17:27.

Third period

Scoring: 4. FW-Scott Fleming (Brandon Marino) :38; 5. FW-Christian Ouellet (Maione, Matt Carter) 7:36; 6. E-Leveille (Peter Sakaris, Matt Lowry) 9:54; 7. FW-Ouellet (Simon Danis-Pepin) 17:05.

Penalties: E-Tristan King (hooking) :57; E-Dylan Clarke (hooking) 15:18; E-Matt Krug (misconduct) 19:19; FW-Danis-Pepin (misconduct) 19:19.

Shots on goal: E/7-7-9--23; FW/13-13-16--42. Goaltenders: E/Mike Clement, FW/Ben Meisner. Power-play opportunities: E/2 of 4; FW/1 of 4. Officials: Referee-Pierre Lambert; Linesmen: Francois Dussureault, Patrick Richardson. Attendance: 6,668.

bsebring@news-sentinel.com


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