Get ready to see a lot of Fort Wayne.
The Komets took control of the third period Friday night, scoring four goals to grab a 5-2 win over the Quad-City Mallards at the iWireless Center, the first of potentially nine games between the two teams in the next three weeks.
The teams meet again tonight in Fort Wayne, Indiana, then start a best-of-7 series in the first round of the ECHL playoffs next week.
"I think at times we played well, I think defensively we need to be better and everybody needs to buy in," forward Sam Warning said. "They're a good team over there and everybody knows that so just going forward we've got to show up to every game and compete."
Though the score ended up lopsided, the Mallards played right with the Komets for most of the game, with the exception of a good part of the first period. The Komets put 21 shots on goalie C.J. Motte in the opening frame, and took a 1-0 lead on the first of Mike Cazzola's three goals at the 4-minute, 46-second mark.
It's the second time in the last two meetings the Komets jumped on Quad-City, and though the Mallards weathered the storm both times, they know they have to be ready right from the start in the playoffs.
"I think it's just sticking to our systems and playing Mallard hockey," Warning said. "You've got to show up every night, you can't take a shift off. That one shift could matter at the end of the game."
With the Mallards trailing 1-0, they thought they had tied it up when Nolan LaPorte buried a loose puck past Garrett Bartus in the second period. Though the puck was clearly loose in front of Bartus, referee Sean Fernandez had lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle.
The Mallards put that behind them and did tie the game on a power-play goal from Jack Nevins at 17:16 in the second period.
The Komets regained the lead for good on an unfortunate bounce that went off an official right to Mason Baptista in the slot for a goal.
"He took one off of (Nevins) and he gave him a great pass there in the slot, right off his shin pads, the ref did," head coach Phil Axtell said. "He gives them the pass off the shin pad because he's not in position, not ready to get out of the way and in my opinion it should be a tie game, we should be going to overtime.
"It is what it is. I'm not worried."
Baptista assisted on Travis Ewanyk's goal to make it 3-1 before Warning scored to cut it to 3-2 but Cazzola added his second and third goals of the night to ice it.
Though both teams want to win the regular-season finale tonight, they know it doesn't mean much for the playoffs. The Mallards had five players scratched and the Komets had two, which will change with a week to get healthy.
"We both know these games don't really mean a lot in terms of what's going to happen for playoffs," Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said. "The word momentum depends on the way you want to look at it. If you've got a mentally strong team, they've got a good leader over there in Chris Francis who I coached and I know they're going to be ready come next Friday."
Gilmour to IR: The Mallards placed forward Adam Gilmour on the injured reserve, effective back to April 2. Gilmour suffered an upper body injury in last Saturday's win over the Alaska Aces.
Toledo's Berschbach wins award: Toledo Walleye winger Shane Berschbach received the ECHL's sportsmanship award for the second straight season Friday. Berschbach is the first player to win in consecutive seasons since Dayton's Jamie Ling won three straight times from 1998-2001.
The award is presented annually to the player who is judged to have exhibited the best sportsmanship combined with a high standard of playing ability.
Berschbach ranks third in the league with 62 assists and is fifth with 80 points while accumulating 25 penalty minutes in 68 games this season.
Ex-Wheeling coach found dead: Dave Gove, who took over as coach of the Wheeling Nailers midway through last season before taking a leave of absence during the Kelly Cup Playoffs, was found dead in a rehabilitation facility for men in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He was 38.
According to KDKA-TV, there were stamp bags of heroin found near Gove's body, indicating he died of a drug overdose. Gove played two games with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes in his career.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Coach Gove,” said Brian Komorowski, the Nailers alternate governor. “David was a bright, caring person that was admired. His positive contributions to the Nailer organization made the team and staff better. We extend our deepest sympathy to Katie, his young son Cullen, and the rest of his family and friends.”