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Komets top Greenville in OT

The Komets just don’t like to make it easy.

Three times they had the lead Saturday night. Three times they coughed it up against the Greenville Road Warriors.

But the Komets finally won it, 1:26 into overtime, when there was a scrum for the puck in front of the net and Mickey Lang banked the puck off of goaltender Connor Knapp and into the net to give the Komets a 4-3 win.

“We’re the heart attack kids. I guess you can call us that,” said coach Gary Graham, whose team had coughed up leads twice in Friday’s 5-4 overtime victory over Toledo.

The Komets (4-4-2) are on a season-best three-game winning streak.

“I kept telling the guys to stay positive,” Graham said, after defenseman Sam Klassen tied it at 3 for the Road Warriors 13:09 into the third period. “It wasn’t that we were playing bad. The third period, they took it to us because the momentum had shifted, but we found a way to get it done.”

An interesting subtext to the game was that both goaltenders, Fort Wayne’s Andrey Makarov and Greenville’s Knapp, are prospects of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

Last week, both of them worked with, and were evaluated by, the Sabres’ roving goaltending coach and scout, Seamus Kotyk, who was in the Memorial Coliseum stands.

Makarov stopped 40 shots. Knapp stopped 35.

But that wasn’t the only storyline, not by a long shot.

There were a lot of connections between the Komets and Road Warriors.

Fort Wayne’s Jace Coyle and William Lacasse formerly played for Greenville, which has former Komets Jean-Michel Rizk and Ryan Hegarty.

And the Komets, who came in with their first back-to-back wins of the season, continued their early game prowess. With forward Scott Fleming’s goal off a rebound 15:32 into the first period, the Komets established a lead for the 10th time in their 11 games under first-year coach Graham.

But, as they have so many times, the Komets couldn’t hold the lead. Greenville right wing Brandon Hynes scored from 20 feet out 1:55 into the second period to tie it at 1.

Just after a penalty to Fort Wayne’s Phil Mangan expired, he sprang teammate Bobby Hughes on an odd-man rush that ended with a goal and a 2-1 lead at 12:23 of the second period.

The Road Warriors (4-7-2), who have gotten all of their wins on the road, answered again when defenseman Lee Baldwin scored on a 40-foot shot at 14:14.

The Komets got the lead for a third time 51 seconds later on Hughes’ goal off a rebound. It was his fourth goal of the weekend, including two Friday, when the Komets squandered a three-goal lead and, later, a one-goal lead.

The circumstances were similar Saturday, in front of 7,872 fans at the Coliseum, where the Komets are 2-1-2.

Notes: There was a second-period fight between Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Sean Berkstresser. … The Komets played without Tristan King (back/wrist), Jeremy Gates (ankle), Shawn Szydlowski (groin), Simon Danis-Pepin (head) and John Dunbar (healthy). … John Muse, who started the season as Fort Wayne’s No. 1 goalie before being called up to the American Hockey League, is 3-4-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts for Charlotte.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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