Komets break losing streak with strong first period

Daniel Maggio heads into the corner on a forecheck during the third period Saturday night. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

With a hot start, the Fort Wayne Komets avoided losing their fourth straight home game for the first time since early in the 2002-03 season Saturday night. They whipped the Quad City Mallards 7-1 before 7,939 Memorial Coliseum fans to finish their six-game homestand to start the regular season at 3-2-1. Now they hit the road for five straight starting this afternoon in Kalamazoo.

This was a totally different team than the one that lost 4-2 at home to Adirondack on Friday night. The Komets continually crashed the front of the Quad City goal and never let starting goaltender Ivan Kulbakov have any chance to breath. He was replaced halfway through the second period after giving up five goals.

The Komets were more aggressive all over the ice, and they finally got off to a good start with four goals and 23 shots during the first period. It was like coach Gary Graham and taken a cattle prod into the locker room for the pregame speech.

“These are the things we talked about in order to get out of the losing funk we are in,” Graham said. “We basically said we need ice bags on every guy at the end of this game. We have to earn a win right now, and the guys were buying into that.”

The Komets did most of the little things right, clearing the front of their own net so goaltender Garrett Bartus could see the Mallards’ shots, protecting the puck and keeping it in the Quad City zone to wear down the Mallards’ over-matched defense. Kulbakov didn’t play poorly but most of the goals came within five feet of the net, and no one helped him by clearing rebounds.

Basically, the Komets did a much better job of playing as a team instead of as individuals like they did Friday.

“The message with the team is this is how we need to play in order to win games,” Graham said. “We have to get to the net, work hard on the backside of the puck and establish the forecheck. If you take care of the puck, you’ll have success. I thought we were gritty tonight but pretty disciplined, too. The overall mix of what we needed to get out of this losing funk we were in, the guys did a pretty good job.”

Pretty good move

With Shawn Szydlowski sitting out with a minor hip injury and Tyson Fawcett a healthy scratch, the Komets inserted Taylor Crunk into the lineup and moved Daniel Maggio from defenseman to forward. Playing with Crunk and Mason Baptista mostly, Maggio scored two goals, joining Marc-Olivier Roy and Garrett Thompson with two each.

“It was fun out there,” Maggio said. “We tried to create some energy for the boys, and everyone pulled their weight and played a great game. We kind of clicked right away and had some O-zone time. I’m happy how it went.”

Maggio has mostly played forward in the AHL the past five seasons.

Jason Binkley had a goal and three assists, Cody Sol and Artur Tyanulin each had two assists and Roy had three points. Garrett Bartus made 26 saves on 27 shots.

Who’s the fastest?

It’s been a question among fans the first month of the season who is the fastest skater on a team filled with plenty of speed? There are plenty of fleet-footed Komets, but the general consensus in the locker room is it’s either Fawcett or Tyanulin.

“It depends what kind of skating,” Crunk said. “There’s straight line and crossover. Artie can do both, but Fawcett is probably the quickest with the first three steps.”

Drum roll, please

The top big on a jersey for Military Appreciation Weekend was $1,028 for Shawn Szydlowski followed by $1,002 for Bobby Shea and $1,000 for Cody Sol. Justin Hodgman’s went for $950 followed by $807 for Marc-Olivier Roy and $708 for Zac Larraza.

Icing the puck

Dennis Kravchenko got hurt in the third period when he blocked a shot. Graham said they’ll check him out in the morning and decide if he plays today in Kalamazoo… Tyson Fawcett and Jalen Smereck were healthy scratches. Szydlowski may play today in Kalamazoo, Komets General Manager David Franke said… Defenseman Ryan Lowney started and played in his first game of the season and was a major upgrade… Arizona goaltending coach Corey Schwab was in town to watch the games Friday and Saturday. He’s also heading to Kalamazoo today.