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Komets push Royals to brink

The Komets have the defending-champion Reading Royals on the ropes after a 3-1 victory Friday at Memorial Coliseum.

Fort Wayne leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series 3-1 and can close it out Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.

The Royals came out with a lot of intensity, and the puck didn’t leave the Fort Wayne zone during the first two minutes. But captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock opened the scoring on Fort Wayne’s first shot on goal, at 4:14, after defenseman Jace Coyle intercepted the puck and sent a shot wide of the net. Schrock stopped it the slot with his skate and flicked in a 20-foot shot.

With Christian Ouellet in the penalty box for tripping, Reading forward Stanislav Galiev tied it at 16:12 of the first period with a one-timer from the left circle, at which point the Royals had outshot the Komets 14-6.

In the second period, the Komets tallied seven of the first nine shots, including a goal at 5:18 by forward Ouellet, who redirected Matthew Maione’s shot from the blue line.

The Komets had a great chance to extend the lead at 8:40 of the third period, but forward Aaron Clarke missed the net at the end of a 2-on-1 rush, one night after he scored twice in a 5-1 Fort Wayne victory at the Coliseum.

The Komets cemented the victory at 16:57, after Shawn Szydlowski prevented a clearing attempt by the Royals. He set up forward Mike Embach in the slot for a 15-foot shot and a 3-1 lead.

Reading is the top seed in the conference. Fort Wayne, which missed the playoffs last year, is the eighth.

Notes: The Royals made some changes to their lineup, taking out Josh Brittain, Brandon Blandina, T.J. Syner and Mike Banwell in favor of Nick Bruneteau, Jesse Todd, Aaron Gens and Greg Wolfe. It was unknown if injuries were a reason. Brittain, a former Fort Wayne player, had two goals in the first two games. Blandina had one. Gens cost Fort Wayne’s Chris Auger almost all of last season with a knee-to-knee hit, while Gens was with Evansville.

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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