Robin Bouchards time as a member of the Komets was short. He spent but two games with them during 1996 in the old IHL, just one step below the NHL, before opting to the lower-echelon Colonial Hockey League.
Driving away from Memorial Coliseum was one of the pivotal moments in Bouchards career.
Of course, it was a bad decision for my career. I could have stayed at a higher level, Bouchard said. You never know what could have happened. I left on my own. They didnt even release me. But it turned out pretty well.
On Saturday night, the 36-year-old Bouchard showed how well. He netted a hat trick in a 4-3 victory, gave his IHL-leading Muskegon Lumberjacks a six-point cushion over the Komets and tied Don Parsons for most goals in the history of minor-league hockey at 682.
Its something, absolutely, that Im proud of, said Bouchard, a right wing, who could become the sole record holder today against Quad City. Ive scored a lot of goals and managed to mix in five championships with them. Its not just the (quest for) 683 goals; I have five rings to go with them. Thats a pretty good combination.
After squandering a 3-2 lead, the Komets were disappointed with the games outcome but realize they still have 14 games to chase their third straight regular-season championship. (Fourth straight, if you include time in the United Hockey League.)
It is disappointing. I thought we played pretty well, said Komets center Leo Thomas, who saved a goal in the first period when a Billy Collins shot got between goaltender Tim Haun and the right goalpost, then tied the game at 1 by rifling a shot from the left circle past Muskegons Sebastien Centomo.
You cant give Bouchard shots like that. We know we can catch them, and we just have to keep working.
Twenty-one seconds after Thomas goal, Bouchard answered by putting a rebound into the net. Fort Waynes Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock tied it at 2 when his shot from 15 feet beat Centomo on the far side at 18:05 of the first period.
A scrum for the puck in front of the Muskegon net culminated with a Matt Syroczynski power-play goal at 6:12 of the second period, but Bouchard tied Parsons record at 11:06, on a power play, when he fired the puck from the right circle past Haun.
Muskegon forward Bobby Bolt netted the game-winner, disappointing the 8,102 fans, when his shot from the right circle beat Haun at 6:32 of the third period.
We got embarrassed when we came here (March 12 and lost 5-2), Bouchard said. They outworked us that night. Our goal tonight was not so much concentrating on the outcome of the game, but taking care of our own end and working hard. I think we did that. We played the body and came out with two good points.
It was only the third loss in 14 games for the Komets (40-19-3), who have won the last two playoff championships in the IHL. Muskegon (43-18-3) had lost 5 of 7 games coming into Friday.