For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.
Reading at Komets
Faceoff: 8 p.m.
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
Don't do it.
As much as they may want to, the worst thing the Fort Wayne Komets could do after Thursday's 5-1 win over the Reading Royals is take a deep breath and maybe peek ahead. They have a 2-1 lead with the next two games in Fort Wayne, but even daydreaming about what may come next is a trap. That's when they'd get knocked on their backsides.
It could happen, though, because Thursday's win was too easy. Playing with jump, aggressiveness and a willingness to hit, the Komets earned that domination by blasting 45 shots on Reading goaltender Riley Gill. They were 45 good shots, too, that tested Gill at every angle like a contortionist because his defense looked like it fell into a pothole.
Aaron Clarke, Chris Auger and Dean Ouellet all scored goals from about 2 feet after they found the puck wide open in front of Gill. With no defensemen in sight, they dangled this way and that until Gill had to commit and then maneuvered around him to softly tuck the puck into the net.
They could do that because Ben Meisner was kicking his legs out like a gymnast on a balance beam at the other end. On the few times the Komets' defense gave up chances, Meisner sent the puck spinning back the other way with pad saves. Twice, he made spectacular stops to rob the Royals of prime scoring chances just before the Komets went the other way to torture Gill with another deke for a goal.
He did it the first time to stop a breakaway by Ryan Cruthers six minutes in just before Clarke scored on a rebound from his backside for a 1-0 lead. Then Meisner did it again in the second period on a blast from the low slot just before Ouellet scored to give the Komets a 2-0 lead.
For one of the few times this season, the Komets showed a willingness to get grumpy in front of both nets. They controlled Game 1 by dominating along the boards, and they contained the Royals in Game 3 by blocking off the slots to build a wall around Meisner and attack Gill. Meisner faced 37 shots, but his defense probably blocked another 10 attempts.
Then, strangely, with the physical game faltering, the Royals tried to win a speed-skating contest with the Komets. Reading is at its best when the game slows down and the Royals try to crunch opponents into submission. By swinging back and initiating some of the physicality, the Komets have proved they aren't backing down, but there's no way Reading can keep pace with Fort Wayne's forwards.
The Komets won because they kept the pressure on the Reading defense and making the Royals chase the puck around their own zone. The Fort Wayne forwards were close enough to the Reading defensemen to tell what deodorant they were wearing, because by forcing continuous turnovers the Komets made them sweat a lot.
But the Komets can't count on that happening again tonight in Game 4. The first three games of the series have all been unique, and the defending champion Royals will come with renewed energy, a bigger purpose and a dare for the Komets to look past them.
The Komets are in great shape, but they can't look ahead yet.
KOMETS 5, ROYALS 1
(Fort Wayne leads series 2-1)
Scoring: 1. FW-Aaron Clarke (Jace Coyle, Mike Embach) 7:10.
Scoring: 2. FW-Dean Ouellet (unassisted) 6:15; 3. R-Sean Wiles (Marvin Degon, Ryan Cruthers) 7:29.
Penalties: R-Brett Flemming (tripping) 12:16; FW-Clarke (goaltender interference) 16:37.
Scoring: 4. FW-Clarke (Simon Danis-Pepin, Shawn Szydlowski) :58; 5. FW-Chris Auger (Brandon Marino, Matt Miaone) 7:40; 6. FW-Marino (unassisted) 19:06.
Penalties: R-Flemming (high sticking) 2:11; FW-Christian Ouellet (unsportsmanlike) 2:11; FW-Christian Ouellet (tripping) 4:44; R-Ryan Cruthers (cross checking) 12:09.
Shots on goal: R/12-8-17--37; FW/14-17-14--45. Goaltenders: R/Riley Gill; FW/Ben Meisner. Power-play opportunities: R/0 of 2; FW/0 of 2. Officials: Referee-Tyler Puddifant; Linesmen: Jim Scarpace, Francois Dussureault; Attendance: 4,317.