Komets crush Mallards to earn some rest

Center Logan Nelson, left, scored the Komets' first goal Saturday night by flipping the puck over Quad City goaltender Matt O'Connor on a power play. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

If anyone has earned a little time off over the holidays, it’s the Fort Wayne Komets who are 9-1 in December after Saturday’s 7-0 win over the Quad City Mallards. The Komets are the ECHL’s hottest team, going 12-2 over their last 14 games to climb within one point of first-place Toledo in the Central Division despite playing two fewer games than the Walleye. The Mallards are the coldest team in the league with a nine-game losing streak.

The Komets dominated the Mallards, holding them to 10 shots on goal through two periods. Early power-play goals by Logan Nelson and Jamie Schaafsma sealed the win, and then Ryan Lowney drilled a slap shot 2:06 into the second period to make it 3-0. After the Komets scored two more early in the third period, the Mallards were probably ready to beg for a running clock the rest of the game.

Gabriel Desjardins scored twice, Garrett Thompson, Logan Nelson and Mason Baptista each had a goal and an assist and Shawn Szydlowski, Daniel Maggio and Ryan Culkin each had two assists. Ryan Lowney and Jamie Schaafsma scoring single goals. Michael Houser made 18 saves for his first shutout of the season to win his seventh decision in a row.

The Komets are now 10-3-2 at home, winning four in a row overall and five in a row at home.

Go home, boys, rest up and enjoy the time with your families. When you get back, things are going to get a lot more difficult. The schedule and roster decisions are about to get awful tough.

The Komets come back to play at third-place Cincinnati on Wednesday, and the Cyclones are three points behind the Komets in the division. Then Fort Wayne hosts North Division runner-up Wheeling on Friday, Dec. 29 before playing at Quad City the next night. Then the Komets ride the bus home all night to host Toledo on New Year’s Eve.

January will be a much tougher schedule, going to Toledo, hosting Allen twice, going to Brampton and a handful of more division games. Eight of the 12 games will be played away from Memorial Coliseum.Then there are 12 games in 27 February days.

Even tougher than the schedule could be the roster decisions the Komets have to make, which could affect the entire season. Forwards Marc-Olivier Roy and Dennis Kravchenko are expected to play Wednesday in Cincinnati, and how do the Komets fit them onto the roster and under the salary cap without gutting their depth? What happens when Justin Hodgman is ready to come back from his shoulder injury, hopefully within a month.

And just where will Roy, Kravchenko and Hodgman fit into a lineup that has gone 12-2? It will be an adjustment for them and for the rest of the players, one that coach Gary Graham has to be very careful with as he tries to maintain the team chemistry which has built during their absence.

How does all of this fit together? It’s going to be fascinating to watch after the holiday. The players have to be back for morning practice Wednesday before heading to Cincinnati.

Icing the puck

Atlanta Gladiators broadcaster and Huntington-native Chris Treft was in attendance, and all he did was rave about his girlfriend Bailey… Marc-Olivier Roy did not make it back to Fort Wayne in time to play Saturday night. Even if he had, it’s not certain if the Komets would have been able to activate him since the ECHL is under a roster freeze for the holiday… Remember when Mason Baptista struggled to win faceoffs a month ago? He was dominating in the circle Saturday night and so was Nelson… Quad City goaltender Matt O’Connor deserved better for his performance, but his teammates gave him no help after the first period… Culkin and Lowney were both plus-3 and every Komet was positive in the game.