Forward Aaron Clarke’s name will go down in Komets lore for the double-overtime series-winning goal Sunday night, but goaltender Ben Meisner shouldn’t be forgotten.
Seconds before Clarke finalized the 2-1 victory at Memorial Coliseum, Reading Royals defenseman Matt Campanale had a shot at the Fort Wayne net from point-blank range that had the 5,008 fans thinking the worst.
I knew he wasn’t going to just shoot it, so I came out and stayed patient and I let him just kind of stickhandle in front of me, said Meisner, who stopped 39 of 40 shots.
I knew in that situation, it takes you back to two-puck in practice and my quickness gives me a little bit of an edge in that situation. I kind of waited him out, which is what I was trying to do. I was lucky to get a slight, slight piece of it with my glove. That’s how it goes a lot. You see a goalie make a save and the team goes the other way and scores.
The Komets knocked the defending champion Royals out in five games, moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals against either Cincinnati or Orlando. Cincinnati is up 3-2 heading into Tuesday’s Game 6 in Orlando.
Meisner has stopped 155 of 161 shots for the Komets, who used nine goals during the regular season. That was a record for the 62-year-old franchise.
An ECHL first
Since it was founded in 1988, no eighth seed had ever defeated a one in a best-of-seven series before the Komets did it against the Royals. There have been other victories by eights over ones.
In 2005, Greenville defeated Pensacola 3-1. In 2000, Augusta defeated Florida 3-2, though Augusta was a 10th seed that got to there through a wild-card round.
In 1998, Hampton Roads beat Peoria 3-0.
In 1995, Birmingham beat Wheeling 3-0; the league had a format in which Wheeling was the top seed in the entire playoffs and Birmingham the lowest. In 1994, in the same format, Louisville beat Knoxville 2-1.
The Komets knew the Royals wouldn’t go down easily, and they didn’t.
Reading, tonight, their lineup was deep with horses, Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. I mean, deep. And when they’re in the offensive zone on a cycle and they have guys like Josh Brittain and Sean Wiles, these big tanks, playing a puck possession game, it really forces you to defend. That’s where Reading did a good job. They had some sustained zone time.
Odd and ends
Dan McCourt, minor-league supervisor of officials for the NHL, attended the game. He was a longtime NHL official. The Komets were 0 for 13 on power plays in the series. Reading was 2 for 15.
Brett Smith, who helped the Komets to the 2012 CHL title, attended the game. After spending this season with Brampton of the CHL – missing time because of a neck injury he suffered with Fort Wayne and then a broken wrist – he said he’s retiring.