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  • Ks win battle royal
      The Reading Royals may dispute the legality of the game-winning play. But there was no disputing what put the Komets in position to defeat the ECHL’s defending champions Thursday night.
  • Goalie stays focused without much action
      Goaltender Ben Meisner stopped 20 of 21 shots as the Komets shocked the defending champion Reading Royals with a 2-1 victory in the opening game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Thursday night.
  • Ks goalie excited by 1st shot at playoffs
      The Komets have used nine goaltenders this season – a franchise record for the 62-year-old team – and Ben Meisner is the one left standing between the pipes.
at Bloomington
When: 8 p.m. today
vs. Muskegon
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1190 AM
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Nick Boucher, who has led the Komets to back-to-back Turner Cup championships, is one of many outstanding goalies in the IHL.

League stocked with top-notch goaltenders

If there’s a position of strength in the IHL, it would certainly seem to be goaltender.

Flint has Jean-Francois Labbe and Muskegon has Sebastien Centomo, both of whom played in the NHL. Bloomington’s Paulo Colaiacovo has backstopped champions in the Central Hockey League and in Europe. Dayton’s Ryan Mior and Port Huron’s Larry Sterling have gotten extended looks at higher levels. Quad City’s Sebastien Laplante was an NHL draft pick.

And Fort Wayne’s Nick Boucher has guided the Komets to back-to-back Turner Cup championships.

“Everybody went out and got a top-notch goalie this year, and I think it shows,” said Fort Wayne coach Al Sims, whose team will face Colaiacovo and the PrairieThunder tonight in Illinois.

Goaltenders have historically been easier to find than position players because there are, overall, fewer spots available. That was magnified last summer when six teams folded in minor-league hockey.

“Those are 12 jobs right there, pretty good goalies, who couldn’t find work,” Sims said.

There have also been financial problems for European teams, cutting short the chances for players to go overseas.

In putting together his squad, Bloomington coach Jarrod Skalde was able to take his time before settling on Colaiacovo.

“It’s amazing how many goalies were out there and we were fortunate as coaches that we could be patient, wait and find the right one to compete with teams that have guys like (Nick) Boucher and all he’s accomplished,” Skalde said.

Boucher is the latest in a line of great Fort Wayne goalies at the AA level of hockey that includes Doug Teskey (1999-2002), Tom Lawson (2002-03) and Kevin St. Pierre (2003-07).

“I’m very confident with him back there,” Komets center Colin Chaulk said. “Boucher is a funny guy because he’s very competitive and we feed off of that. If you are able to score on him during practice, it gets him a little riled up. Sometimes the young guys don’t know what to make of it, but he tries (hard) every play, plays every puck and he’s just really good.”

With so many solid netminders, teams must find ways to solve them. They break down film. And players who have been on teams with goalies in the past can share knowledge of their tendencies. The good ones aren’t susceptible to much.

“Traffic is a big thing, though,” Skalde said. “There aren’t many goalies who like that (in front of them), even in the NHL.”

You can be sure that tonight, the Komets (3-1-0) and the PrairieThunder (2-2-0) will try to screen the goalies all night long. It could be the only way to solve Boucher and Colaiacovo.

“(The perception is) goalies can only lose a game,” Chaulk said. “Nobody cares if they win. But if they make an error, everybody notices it.”