Weeks ago, the Komets weren't even sure they'd make the postseason. Now they've knocked off the defending champion Reading Royals, the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.
Forward Aaron Clarke scored 6:45 into the second overtime at Memorial Coliseum, after forward Christian Ouellet's pass from the left corner, to cement a 2-1 victory.
"It's relief right now that we're not getting back on the bus tomorrow. Olie made a great pass and I was in the right spot," Clarke said, after the eighth-seeded Komets took the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in five games.
The Komets will play the winner of the series between Cincinnati and Orlando. Cincinnati leads the series 3-2, despite dropping the last two games. Game 6 is Tuesday in Orlando.
Goaltender Ben Meisner stopped 39 of 40 shots, including one on Matt Campanale from point-blank range seconds before Clarke won it.
Before the game even started, it was clear that the Royals' intent was to agitate the Komets. All of the players came together at center ice with several pushing and shoving – namely Fort Wayne's Jordon Southorn and Reading's Aaron Gens – and Komets general manager David Franke and coach Gary Graham came out of the locker room to break it up.
There continued to be jawing though between Fort Wayne captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and goaltender Riley Gill, who was benched by Royals coach Larry Courville after losing 5-1 on Thursday and 3-1 on Friday at the Coliseum. Some Reading players also had words with fans behind the bench.
Once the game started, the belligerence continued. It was at its worst at 7:33, when there was a scrum in front of the net and Ethan Cox cross-checked Ouellet in the chin. Referee Peter Tarnaris gave them both penalties, though.
The Komets had already established a lead, though, thanks to Dean Ouellet's goal at the end of a 2-on-1 rush 2:48 into the first period. He was sent a crossing pass by Mike Embach and one-timed it over diving goalie Brandon Anderson, who hadn't played since losing the series-opening game 2-1 in Reading.
The Komets thought they had increased their lead at 14:39 of the second period, when a rocketing shot from 50 feet out by forward Chris Auger was waved off by Tarnaris because Scott Fleming had interfered with the goaltender.
The Royals tied it 2:50 later, as defenseman Brett Flemming's shot from the blue line was directed just inside the right goalpost by forward Sean Wiles.
The Komets had a multitude of chances to win the game, and the series, with Clarke, Jace Coyle and Auger all getting chances from point-blank range late in the third period, but they were stopped by Anderson.
With 1:17 left in regulation time, Embach clipped Kevin Walrod and received a major penalty and game misconduct, giving the Royals 5 minutes of power play time, just when the Komets' fatigue was really showing. He faces a possible suspension now.
Fort Wayne killed off the penalty and then got two of its own in the first overtime, thanks to a pair of penalties for having too many men on the ice, but the Komets extended their drought with the man advantage – they are 0 for 13 in the series.
The Komets had the bulk of the scoring opportunities in the first overtime, but the best one came from Reading forward Josh Brittain, who was stopped by Meisner at the end of a 2-on-1 rush.