Fort Wayne Komets rookie forward and leading scorer Mike Cazzola recorded his third hat trick this season and Komets goaltender Garrett Bartus added 33 saves as the Komets (44-19-6-2) defeated the Quad City Mallards (40-27-2-2) for the seventh time this year. With a hat trick in tonight’s matchup, Cazzola passed Toledo Walleye forwards and twin brothers Tyson and Tylor Spink for the ECHL rookie point lead with 75 points. Komets forward Mike Embach also assisted on all three of Cazzola’s tallies tonight, giving him 33 assists and 50 points on the year. Fort Wayne forward Mason Baptista recorded a goal and an assist tonight to give him 28 points on the year.
The Komets came out to a flying start, throwing 21 shots on Mallards goaltender CJ Motte in the first period. However, only one found its way past Motte as Cazzola sniped one past the Mallards goaltender for his 28th of the year 4:46 in to give the Komets an early 1-0 lead. With that goal, he tied Tylor Spink for second in the ECHL in rookie points with 73, and put him one point behind Spink’s twin brother Tyson for the league lead. Embach and Komets defenseman Jason Binkley added assists on the Cazzola tally. With the assist, Binkley tied Allen Americans defenseman Joel Chouinard for ninth in the league in defensemen points with 44. That was Embach’s 31st assist of the year and Binkley’s 37th. The lone penalty in the first period came 10:07 in, as Mallards defenseman Donnie Harris was called for a holding minor. The Komets led the shots on goal column at the end of the first 21-11.
The middle frame started with the Mallards getting a goal waved off after referee Sean Fernandez blew the play dead a little early. The second period went on bland but fast-paced, as end-to-end hockey was being played. With 3:18 remaining in the second, Komets forward Travis Ewanyk boarded Mallards forward Kyle Novak from behind and a crowd gathered after. Thirty-four seconds after the Ewanyk boarding minor, Mallards forward Jack Nevins tied the game at 1, as he netted his 11th of the year on the power-play, with assists from Mallards leading scorer, captain and former Komet, forward Chris Francis and defenseman Guillaume Gelinas. That was Francis’s 60th point this season and 33rd assist and Gelinas’s 31st point and 22nd assist. At the end of the second, the Komets led the Mallards 35-22 in shots on goal.
The Mallards were in full control at the beginning of the third as the Komets failed to execute on simple passes to clear the defensive zone, but Bartus kept the K’s in the game, making huge saves down the stretch. The Komets finally gained control of the puck, and 8:14 in, Baptista regained the Komets lead at 2-1. Baptista spun, shot and sniped Motte for his 14th of the year. Less than two minutes later, Baptista added his 14th assist on Ewanyk’s 20th goal of the year and his fourth as a member of the Komets. Ewanyk’s goal was also his 10th point in a Komets sweater. Less than a minute later, the scoring spree continued, except this time it was a Mallard who scored. Forward Sam Warning burned the Komets defense to tuck his 24th goal of the season past Bartus and cut the Komets lead to 3-2. Warning now has three goals and nine points against the Komets this year. Mallards forward Justin Kovacs and defenseman Kevin Gibson added helpers. Kovacs kept pace with Francis for the Mallards’ point lead, as both players added a point in tonight’s game and they both have 60 on the year. Cazzola added the next two goals for the Komets, completing his third hat trick this season, one coming with five seconds left in an empty net. Those last two goals put him atop all rookies in the ECHL in points with 75, passing both Tylor and Tyson Spink. Embach also tallied assists on all three Cazzola goals. The Komets came out on top tonight 5-2, going 7-2-1-1 against the Mallards this season. The Komets came out on top on the shots on goal column as well 47-35. NOTABLES Cazzola now has the league lead in rookie points with 75. Binkley tied Allen defeneseman Chouinard for ninth in the league for defensemen points with 44. Embach assisted on all three of Cazzola’s goals tonight, giving him 50 points on the year.
1. Mike Cazzola (FW, 3G, 7 SOG, +3) 2. Mason Baptista (FW, 1G, 1A, 2 SOG, +2) 3. Sam Warning (QC, 1G, 7 SOG)
The Komets take on the Mallards in the second game of a home-and-home playoff preview series at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne tonight at 7:30 p.m.