Komets score early to gain revenge on Quad City, Motte

Defenseman Ryan Culkin had two assists Saturday night as the Komets beat Quad City 4-1 before 9,033 fans at Memorial Coliseum. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

The last time the Fort Wayne Komets faced Quad City goaltender C.J. Motte, he made 60 saves and beat them 4-3 in a shootout last Sunday. They never let him breathe in the rematch, beating the Mallards 4-1 before 9,033 Memorial Coliseum fans on Saturday night.

The win keeps the Komets one point up on Toledo for the ECHL Central Division and Western Conference lead and ties them with Florida for the overall league lead. Toledo beat Kalamazoo and Florida lost to Tulsa on Saturday night, but the Walleye travel to Quad City and Florida plays at Tulsa on Sunday while the Komets are idle.

On Sunday it took them 48 shots to finally put one past Motte, but they scored on their fourth shot Saturday as Mason Baptista set up Garrett Thompson for an easy tap-in 4:14 after the opening faceoff. With a little less drama, the Komets relaxed and built a 2-0 lead at the intermission on a Thompson blast from the wing at 17:24.

The lead built to 3-0 in the second period as Justin Hodgman scored, a goal he donated to his girlfriend Nicole’s grandmother Jean Halliwill who is dealing with some health issues. The Mallards cut the margin to 3-1 early in the third period, but Marc-Olivier Roy ended any drama with an answer four minutes later.

“Our gameplan was very simple, to converge on the net and shoot and get traffic and crash the net,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “I thought overall the guys did a lot better job. We were shooting from a lot higher percentage areas of the ice tonight.

“We know we can score goals, but we have to be able to score greasy goals. Down the stretch… it doesn’t matter who we play, we’re going to get everybody’s best game and everybody is going to want to shut down our offense, so we have to find ways to score goals around the net front. That was really the message tonight, challenging the forwards, `When was the last time you scored a goal from in front of the net?’ ”

By sending two forwards to the front of the net, the Komets also did a better job of pinning Motte near his goal line so he couldn’t skate out as easily to cut down shooting angles. That’s partly why so many shots hit him in the chest on Sunday.

Motte finished with 34 saves, and Garrett Bartus made 26 for the Komets. Besides Thompson’s three points, Ryan Culkin also had two assists.

The Komets, who are 14-1-1 over their last 16 games and 29-8-1 since Nov. 17, are off until Friday when Fort Wayne-native Brian Gratz brings his Greenville Swamp Rabbits to town for a pair of games. Fort Wayne is 8-0-1 in February with three games to go.