FORT WAYNE – The Komets closed the 62nd regular season in franchise history with a 4-3 overtime shootout victory over the Toledo Walleye, cemented with forward Mike Embach’s goal in the seventh round Saturday night.
Talk turned to the defending champion Reading Royals, whom the Komets will face in a best-of-seven first-round playoff series that begins Thursday in Pennsylvania.
Game 2 of the 2-3-2 formatted series will be Saturday before it returns to Memorial Coliseum for Game 3 on April 24. The full schedule will be released today.
The Komets came into the night with a chance to get the seventh of eight seeds in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference, but hope of that evaporated when the Wheeling Nailers defeated Cincinnati 5-0.
There are a lot of different things we’ve been doing better that we weren’t doing at the beginning of the year, said coach Gary Graham, whose Komets are on an 8-2-1 run. You always want to be peaking now and playing better hockey at this time of the year. We’re doing that and we feel good right now.
Right wing Brandon Marino was selected team MVP by his teammates for a second straight year and was presented the Foss Folk Memorial Trophy after the game.
Obviously, it’s a big honor. But you’re only as good as the guys you play with. I’m excited and happy about it, but to me it’s more of a team thing. Now I’m focused on the playoffs, said Marino, who had a goal to tie it at 1 in the first period.
Marino wrapped up the league’s point-scoring title with 30 goals and 88 points in 72 games, becoming the first Fort Wayne player to lead the league in scoring since Lonnie Loach in 1990-91.
The Komets took a 2-1 lead at 1:57 of the second period, when defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin’s shot from the blue line sailed through a crowd and past goaltender Jared Coreau, who finished with 50 saves. Fort Wayne forward Jason Dale made it 3-1 with a shot from the bottom of the left circle 1:50 into the third period.
Right wing Maxim Shalunov forced overtime with goals at 4:00 and 19:43 of the third period against goalie Steven Summerhays, who stopped 29 shots in his second game out of Notre Dame.
We like to work for our wins, I guess, Marino said. It was good to see (Summerhays) stonewall them there in the shootout when we couldn’t score. It’s not great to make it hard, but if you get the win, you get the win. And that’s the biggest thing going into the playoffs.
It’s the 11th time in 12 years the Komets will go to the postseason – they clinched with a 4-3 victory Friday over Evansville – after missing the 2013 postseason in their first ECHL season.
In the regular season, the Komets went 1-2-1 against Reading (46-22-4), which won the Eastern Conference title and is on a 6-0-1 run that culminated with a 1-0 victory Saturday over Orlando in an overtime shootout.