Komets rebound to win 1,000th all-time road game

Garrett Bartus

The Quad City Mallards came up on the schedule at the perfect time for the Fort Wayne Komets.

Coming off losing two games in Kansas City, the Komets rebounded by scoring a trio of third-period goals to beat the Mallards 4-3 on Sunday in Moline, Ill. The win gives the Komets an 8-0-1 record this season against the Mallards.

It also gives the Komets 1,000 road wins during their 66-year history, making their all-time mark away from Memorial Coliseum 1,000-1,200-246.

The Komets are 18-10 on the road this season and that includes four wins this season at Quad City, evening the Komets record at 2-2 on a five-game road trip that will conclude Friday in Kalamazoo.

After the two losses in Kansas City, Komets coach Gary Graham challenged his team before Sunday’s game.

“Right now our penalty is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Graham said on his pregame radio interview. “It starts with the goaltending and team defense. Teams are scoring way too easy on us right now. It’s a problem.

“The road penalty kill is an abomination. It’s one of the ugliest things I’ve ever ever seen. Until we start killing off penalties and stop taking dumb penalties… You’re not going to win on the road like that. This is on us right now. I want to see what the team does. We need to get a win here. We need to see some desperation from the guys. To lose games on the road with two leads going into the third period is very uncharacteristic of our guys. The guys are on notice. We’ll see what they’ve got.”

Coming into Sunday’s game, opponents had scored nine power-play goals in 41 attempts over the last 10 road games. The Komets are 22nd on the penalty kill in the 27-team ECHL at 79.7 percent. At home, they are fourth in the league at 88.1 percent. Overall they are 10th at 83.7 percent. Over their previous 11 games, opponents had scored nine power-play goals in 37 attempts and the Komets had scored six in 39 attempts.

The Komets held the Mallards scoreless in four power-play attempts on Sunday, while also not scoring in their own four chances.

Sunday’s game didn’t start well as the Komets fell behind 2-0 after the first 3:27. Bobby Shea scored just before the end of the first period, but the Mallards pushed the margin back to 3-1 during the second period. The Komets had a goal by Dennis Kravchenko taken off the board after referee Tyler Puddifant ruled they were offsides on the play. When the Komets bench protested, they were hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty.

Kravchenko got his goal back early in the third period, and Gabriel Desjardins tied the score two minutes later. That set up Garrett Thompson’s game-winning goal with 7:19 remaining. The Komets caught a break when Quad City’s Tristan Grant received a five-minute match penalty for decking Fort Wayne’s Justin MacDonald on the ensuing faceoff. That killed off most of Quad City’s chances for a comeback.

Garrett Bartus made 31 saves to improve his all-time Fort Wayne record after a loss to an astonishing 14-2-0 over parts of three seasons.

The win pushes the Komets to 39-15-2 and they remain four points behind Toledo in the ECHL’s Central Division. They have played two fewer games than the Walleye. There are 15 games remaining in the regular season.