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Surging Komets outlast Orlando

The Komets finally seem to be hitting their stride – they’ve won five of seven games – and it comes just as there is uncertainty on the horizon.

With the NHL lockout ending and many players expected to be called up this week, there’s no telling what the lineup will look like Wednesday at Evansville.

But the Komets, who have endured myriad injuries and long stretches of bad play, believe they can weather anything.

“We really are (a different team),” center Brett Smith said after the Komets defeated Orlando 3-2 in front of 6,758 fans at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.

“Good defense leads to good offensive chances. They’re not going to score much if we’re down in their end. We’re keeping the puck low and, in turn, we’re battling hard in our own zone. We’re getting big saves, we’re chipping it out and we’re finishing hits. We’re finding ways to win right now, and it’s fun and exciting.”

Orlando is an expansion team that took the same nickname – Solar Bears – as the old IHL team, which last played in Fort Wayne in 1998-99. Sunday was the final meeting of the season series, and the Komets won three of four.

“It seems like, lately, shots-wise, we are dominating teams,” Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. “I think you’re seeing a better defensive hockey team from the Komets in the last three or four games than you have for most of the year, especially at home.”

The Komets (19-15-2) remain one game below .500 at the Coliseum. The Solar Bears (15-17-4) had won four of five before getting only two of 28 shots past goaltender Marco Cousineau.

“Our young defensemen are maturing and gaining confidence,” Sims said. “We’re 11-1-2 in (games won by) one goal, which is impressive when you can win one-goal games like that because in the playoffs the games are going to be like that, like it was (Sunday).”

The Komets opened the scoring 5:46 into the game, when Smith fired the puck from 45 feet out. Goaltender Hannu Toivonen made the initial save, but then he inadvertently hit the puck into the net.

That was followed by a fight between Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Orlando’s Mike Liambas, and the Solar Bears tied it in the second period on defenseman Bryce Lampman’s shot from just inside the blue line during a 5-on-3 power play.

Late in the period, the Komets regained the lead when forward Garrett Klotz scored from 10 feet out on a power play.

Center Corey Elkins, who has three goals and four points in four games with the Komets but is likely to be called up or make his rumored move to Europe this week, made it 3-1 at 6:13 of the third period after a pass from the right post by forward Brandon Marino.

After Orlando defenseman Michael Wilson answered on a power play, Marino had a chance to extend the lead on a penalty shot, but he was foiled by a sprawled Toivonen, who had 39 saves.

The Solar Bears missed a chance to force overtime when center Mathew Sisca missed a wide-open net with 8 seconds remaining.

Notes: Defenseman Brent Henley missed a second straight game. His knee brace is broken, and the team is in search of a new one, general manager David Franke said. … Also out were captain Colin Chaulk (foot), Luca Caputi (shoulder), Matt Kennedy (groin) and Charlie Effinger (healthy).

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