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Ben Smith

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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Komets goalie Ben Meisner stops a shot from Cincinnati’s Josh McFadden in the second period Saturday.

Desperation mode fits K’s quite well

– “We’ve been in a desperate mode for a long time.”

Gary Graham

And so here is what desperate mode looked like Saturday night, Game 4, Komets vs. Cincinnati:

It was going down two goals again with another Ice Capades start, the best road team in the ECHL (the Cyclones) giving the home team (the Komets) a good long stare into the abyss of a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

It was The Comeback II in the second and third periods, Christian Oullet cashing a rare Cyclones’ cough-up in their end and Shawn Szydlowski, rapidly become the Komets’ indispensable man, splitting the defense, deking goalie Rob Madore and tucking it home with five minutes and change left in regulation.

And so to overtime, again.

And so, this time, Jordon Southorn throwing a what-the-heck shot into the scrum around Madore, and the puck hitting a Cyclones defenseman’s skate, and the red light going on as it slithered through a splinter’s width of daylight into the goal.

Komets 3, Cincinnati 2. And now it’s an even series again, with three of the four games decided by a goal and two going overtime.

And if isn’t apparent now that this ECHL conference semifinal is desperate mode’s home office, it’s never going to be.

“It’s a pretty even match. They seem to get better starts, and we seem to get better finishes,” shouted Brandon Marino over Miley Cyrus in the postgame locker room.

“I think we just see this being a long, drawn-out series with goaltending and lower-scoring games. That’s just how this series looks like it’s heading,” Graham agreed.

In other words: A series mined with tight spots. And what else is new about that, if you’re these Komets?

This is a team that had to play nearly to the last day of the regular season to get into the playoffs to begin with, so it knows the terrain of the cliff’s edge. And it knows how you keep your balance there.

You do it by doing what they did in the second and third periods, which was keep the pressure on, outshoot the Cyclones 27-15, refuse to blink. You do it by getting the thing to overtime, where anything can happen and has.

In Game 3, it happened for the Cyclones, who scored the game-winner after being granted a power play in the second OT on a bizarre delay-of-game call. Saturday night, it was Southorn rolling sevens on a shot from up top that probably shouldn’t have ended up behind Madore but did.

“Hey, on Thursday night, they got a lucky bounce,” Southorn said. “That’s overtime hockey. It isn’t really gonna be pretty. It’s gonna be ugly.”

And desperate, of course. And when you start talking desperate, you’re coming right up a certain hockey team’s street.

“Yeah, you saw the season coming down the stretch, we were playing desperation hockey, playoff hockey for the last month and a bit,” Southorn said. “It was such a tight race. … We’ve been playing desperate hockey for a while.”

A little more won’t matter now.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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