The Komets seemingly always unreliable power play came through when it was needed most – Christian Ouellet scored the game-winning goal at 17:55 with the man-advantage – and Fort Wayne defeated the Evansville IceMen 4-3 at Memorial Coliseum tonight.
The victory clinched a playoff spot for Fort Wayne (35-24-12), which is going to the postseason for the 11th time in 12 seasons and for the first time in the ECHL.
Coming into the night, Fort Wayne’s power play ranked 19th among the ECHL’s 21 team with an efficiency of 14 percent. Against the IceMen (30-30-11), the Komets were 1 for 4 on the power play.
The Komets dominated the third period, outscoring the IceMen 3-1.
The Komets finish the regular season Saturday against the Toledo Walleye and, most likely, will face Reading, the top team in the Eastern Conference, in a first-round best-of-seven playoff series.
If one thing had been reliable this season with the Komets, it had been their second-ranked penalty kill (86.8 percent). But it was exploited by the IceMen’s top-rated power play (19.9 percent) tonight.
Evansville, which came in having lost 5 of 6 games, built a 2-0 first-period lead on a pair of power-play goals during its first six shots on goal.
Forward Josh Beaulieu netted a one-timer from the right circle at 12:58. And forward Alex Aleardi scored at 15:43, after skating out of the left corner and put a shot into the top of the net. Aleardi was born in Fort Wayne but moved to Michigan when he was 1.
The Komets answered by coming out hard in the second period and 45 seconds in, after a scrum for the puck in front, forward Mike Embach found an open net. And 38 seconds into the third period, forward Scott Fleming tied it at 2 with a 40-foot shot.
Komets defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin had an excellent chance for the lead, when he was all alone with the puck in front at 7:00, but his shot went right into the chest of goaltender Mike Clemente.
Thirty-six seconds later, a 20-foot shot by Ouellet sailed through a crowd and into the back of the net, giving a 3-2 lead to Fort Wayne, which had the first 12 shots of the period.
The IceMen answered at 9:54 with a goal from forward Daulton Leveille, who skated in one-on-one against defenseman Steven Shamanski and then banked a shot from the left side of the net off goalie Ben Meisner and in to tie it at 3.
The Komets are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and finished the season series 5-3-1 against the IceMen.
Notes: The Komets have brought in a new defenseman, Justin Sefton, who had been with Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 17 goals and 39 points in 73 games this season. … Shamanski, who has played twice for the Komets since completing his collegiate career at Providence, will leave Fort Wayne on Monday to complete his education and won’t be back. … Even though he has resumed skating for the Komets, Dean Ouellet (concussion) remained out for a 14th straight game. He has one goal and 10 points in 16 games with Fort Wayne.