Walleye unable to eliminate Komets in Game 5

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Fort Wayne Komets staved off elimination in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Central Division Semifinals on Saturday, tallying three power play goals en route to a 5-3 victory over the Toledo Walleye before a capacity crowd of 7,704 at the Huntington Center.

Despite missing out on a chance to knock Fort Wayne out of the opening round of the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club, the Walleye take a 3-2 series lead back to the Memorial Coliseum for Game 6 on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. Should the series remain undecided, Game 7 would take place at the Huntington Center on Wednesday at 7:35 p.m.

In all, the Komets finished 3-for-6 on the man advantage, while the Walleye found the net on one of their five opportunities. Matt Register, who garnered third-star honors with a power play goal, set an ECHL record by skating in his 105th career Kelly Cup Playoff game.

Fort Wayne struck first on the power play with 1:38 to go in the opening frame. After a Josh Elmes wrist shot from the point slipped through a mass of bodies in the slot, Mason Baptista had his initial effort in close blocked by Pat Nagle’s right pad before moving to the forehand to lift his own rebound into the top left corner. 

A miraculous save from Zachary Fucale prevented the Walleye from pulling even nearly two minutes into the middle period. David Pope’s rinkwide pass set up Shane Berschbach at the lower edge of the left circle for an all-but-certain equalizer, only for Fucale to drop his goal stick and snag the wrist shot with the inside of his blocker.

The Komets proceeded to double their lead one shift later. Mason Baptista snatched the puck from Ryan Obuchowski near the right corner and centered a pass to Anthony Nellis in the high slot for a wrister into the top right corner at the 2:23 mark.

Zach Gallant scored his team-best fourth goal in as many games to cut Toledo’s deficit in half at 10:10. He beat Cody Sol to a loose puck at the left half-boards and placing a sharp-angle shot through a tight gap over Fucale’s right shoulder.

Brady Shaw added a power play goal to make it 3-1 with 7:08 left in the second, but the Walleye responded on a two-man advantage with 1:58 remaining. While Dylan Sadowy set up a screen in front of Fucale, Greg Wolfe and Register played catch on the left side of the ice before the latter ripped a one-timer from the top of the left circle.

Fort Wayne capitalized on a 5-on-3 of its own, restoring its two-goal cushion when J.C. Campagna loaded up a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that went off the left post and in with 13:29 to go in regulation. Once again, the Walleye jumped back within a goal, as Kevin Tansey skated away from pressure near the right half-wall and cut into the high slot for an effort that ricocheted off the right skate of Chase Stewart and past Fucale with 6:40 left. Though the hosts were granted a late power play after the Komets were caught with too many men, Anthony Petruzzelli eventually used an empty-netter to ice the game with 37.9 seconds on the clock.

Fucale stopped 32-of-35 shots in a winning cause, while Nagle turned aside 20-of-24.

Three Stars:
1. Fort Wayne – Brady Shaw (power play goal, assist)
2. Fort Wayne – J.C. Campagna (power play goal)
3. Toledo – Matt Register (power play goal)

Matt Register scored a power play goal in the second period of Toledo's 5-3 loss to Fort Wayne in Game 5. (Photo: Scott W. Grau)