Komets step up with third-period rally against Walleye

Komets defenseman Jason Binkley starts to celebrate as Dennis Kravchenko's first-period goal gives Fort Wayne a 2-0 lead over Toledo on Thursday night. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

No one has a definitive answer why, but hockey teams who are playing short-handed are usually the most dangerous.

The Fort Wayne Komets proved that again Thursday night, beating Central Division-leading Toledo 5-4 before 7,489 Memorial Coliseum fans. Because of American Hockey League call-ups and injuries, the Komets were limited to a bare bones 10 forwards and six defensemen, and then forward Louick Marcotte left the game with an undisclosed injury in the second period.

Somehow the Komets managed to rally from a 4-3 third-period deficit that sucked the energy out of the building. Shawn Szydlowski set up Dennis Kravchenko to tie it, and then Mason Baptista and Taylor Crunk battled to set up Gabriel Desjardins for his fifth goal in three games.

“You just have the group a lot of credit,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “The momentum shifted in a hurry in the third period and to have the response that they had so quickly was unbelievable. The guys did a great job of executing under pressure.”

Even more impressive was the team they beat which included former Komets goaltender Pat Nagle who was 10-0-2 this season.

There was balance throughout the lineup as Dennis Kravchenko scored twice to give him six goals over his last four games, Szydlowski had a goal and two assists and Desjardins and Baptista also had two points.

“The guys came through,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “I feel like we still have a good lineup, and it gives us a little bit of a different look. I like our lineup even though we’re still missing our top two scorers. We trust everyone who is on the team, we believe in each other. It’s nice when somebody like Baps who has been out of the lineup a little bit, he’s hungry and he’s working hard and he gets the opportunity. We want to see success happen for everyone, just like when guys get the opportunity to move up to the next level. That also provides an opportunity down here and shows the depth we have here.”

The Komets are 2-0-1 over their last three games heading to Indy tonight before hosting Cincinnati on Sunday. That’s a lot of hockey to play short-handed, but Graham spent all day on the phone before the game. His Thanksgiving dinner was from McDonald’s. That means somebody else will get a chance to perform.

“Guys get an opportunity to step up and maybe earn a normal spot in the lineup,” Szydlowski said. “Those guys inspire everyone else. It just builds confidence and you have to have faith in all the other guys.”

Icing the puck

The Komets activated Bobby Shea and Mason Baptista off reserve to play last night after Artur Tyanulin was recalled by Tucson and Marc-Olivier Roy by San Jose of the American Hockey League… While the Komets are 2-14-1 all-time at Toledo’s Huntington Center, the Komets are 16-4-3 over the last five seasons against the Walleye at Memorial Coliseum… During their six years in the ECHL, the Komets are now 8-9-2 in the game after they score six goals… Toledo right wing Luke Esposito gets asked all the time if he’s related to NHL goal-scoring king Phil Esposito. He is not, but he is the nephew of Marc Messier… Thursday’s crowd of 7,489 was the Komets’ largest for a Thanksgiving game since 2011.