MUSKEGON, Mich. - After that brief interruption, we now return you to your regularly scheduled Fort Wayne Komets dominance.
That's the way it felt this weekend, the Komets' 5-1 victory over the Muskegon Fury on Saturday securing them a berth in the Turner Cup Finals.
It was the second commanding victory in as many nights for the top-seeded Komets, after a back-and-forth beginning to the semifinals that ultimately saw Fort Wayne win the best-of-seven series 4-2.
By scoring three goals on their first six shots Saturday, on the heels of shutting out the fourth-seeded Fury 3-0 the night before, the Komets finally looked the team that cruised its way to a regular-season championship.
“Muskegon gave us all we can handle. They're a good team and were well prepared. And they gave it everything they had,” Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. “Unfortunately for them, we jumped out real quick tonight. Our team was ready to go right off the bat. We didn't want to let this slip away. We had a chance to finish it and we did.”
Now comes Port Huron Icehawks, the only team that stands in the way of the Komets' first postseason championship since hoisting the United Hockey League's Colonial Cup in 2003.
That series will begin Friday at Memorial Coliseum, Komets president Michael Franke said, with the rest of the schedule to be finalized Monday. Because of arena availabilities, it's likely to have a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format similar to the one in the semifinals, which hindered the Komets because they couldn't win their first two road games.
On Saturday, though, L.C. Walker Arena echoed with chants of “Let's Go Komets,” courtesy of the several hundred Fort Wayne fans who made the 220-mile trip, boosting attendance to 2,354. The Fort Wayne faithful were rewarded as the offense exploded early.
Forty seconds in, forward Mitch Woods fired a waist-high shot and right wing Luciano Aquino swatted it out of midair and into the net. Less than a minute later, center Mathieu Curadeau skated one-on-one against Philippe Plante and wristed a shot above the outstretched glove of goaltender Isaac Reichmuth.
And center Justin Hodgman made it 3-0 at 5:33, taking a cross-ice pass from defenseman Sergei Durdin and one-timing it underneath Reichmuth, who was pulled in each of his last three starts, this time after stopping 3 of 6 shots.
“We just knew we couldn't give those guys any life,” Fort Wayne's Colin Chaulk said. “We didn't want a Game 7. We were the team on the road, and we had to try and knock them down. We were just fortunate to get three early ones.”
The Komets outshot the Fury 11-1 in the first period, the fewest shots allowed by Fort Wayne in a period this season. Reichmuth's backup, Clayton Pool, stopped 18 of 20 shots in relief.
Even though Nick Boucher had the 23-save shutout Friday for the Komets, Kevin Reiter was the starting goalie and stopped 15 of 16 shots.
Reiter was bested only by right wing Robin Bouchard, who scored off a rebound during a power play at 6:37 of the second period.
Fort Wayne's P.C. Drouin scored during a power play 1:27 later, and Aquino cemented the victory at 17:38 of the third period.
“We really wanted to finish them tonight because you never know what can happen in a Game 7,” Curadeau said. “We just wanted to come out stronger than they did, and we just shot the puck. … And we played huge defensively, the way we did all year.”
Notes: The referee was John Searle, who was injured during a collision after a third-period faceoff and had to be tended to by trainers from both teams. He stayed in the game. … On the way to Muskegon, a window in the Komets' bus blew out.