"We sacrificed and made the smart road hockey plays that you need to make to do well in the playoffs," Graham said by phone. "We picked our spots and played a smart game. We just had to do all those little things, and played very desperate hockey."
A lot of little things added up to big plays for the Komets. Graham inserted defenseman Cody Corbett into the lineup, and he set up Mike Embach's rebound goal to give Fort Wayne a 1-0 lead after the first period. A couple of great shot blocks held off a furious Allen attack in the second period which led to a long break-out pass of the skate of Jordon Southorn to set up another Embach goal and push the margin to 2-0.
The Komets needed that cushion as Gary Steffes scored on a rebound with 8:24 left to give the Americans a chance to rally, but the Fort Wayne attack stayed consistent and controlled the play the rest of the game. The Komets out-shot the Americans in every period, including 12-7 in the third, and 37-28 in the game. The Komets also showed more discipline as far as penalties, earning a 4-1 advantage in power plays.
"I thought we played pretty disciplined and we didn't give them too much," Embach said. "It's the little details. Everything they've scored in this series is because because we gave it to them. When we locked it down I felt we did pretty good. As long as we keep them off the rush and play the right way, they don't get that many chances. The longer we're in their zone, the less energy they have to play in ours."
This outcome was all about Fort Wayne's discipline. The Komets didn't take many penalties, skated away from altercations and kept the pressure on the Americans with a strong forecheck. They also protected goaltender Pat Nagle, keeping his crease clean and his vision clear so he could see all the shots.
Defensively, the Komets always seemed to have four or five skaters inside and below the faceoff dots in their own zone, limiting the Americans' chances to get off clean shots or get to rebounds.
They challenged every Americans' shot and pass with pressure, and then used a few Allen turnovers to set up Fort Wayne's best offensive chances. The Americans were clearly frustrated with Fort Wayne's patience and determination as the Komets dominated the chances 5-on-5. They did a better job controlling the puck in the Allen zone and winning most of the battles for loose pucks.
"Our D really did a good job of taking care of their forward lines," Graham said. "They are very dangerous, but we did a really good job of always getting in their way."
And now the Komets also know they'll face their toughest game of the season on Saturday. The defending ECHL champions will adjust and will bring their very best effort of the playoffs to try regaining control of the series.
"That's a very well-coached team and they will be good come Saturday," Graham said. "We're happy to get the win but we also understand the new challenge that faces us."
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at firstname.lastname@example.org.