For a split second Thursday night, right wing Sean O'Connor remembered what his father, Don, had taught him those many times growing up – use deception to your advantage, trick them from behind the net.
In that split second, O'Connor changed the scope of the Komets' 4-2 victory over the Port Huron Icehawks in the opening game of the IHL semifinals, in front of 5,412 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
O'Connor got control of the puck beside the Port Huron net early in the third period, then started jetting behind the goal, as if he were going to wrap it around the other side. Like Maverick in "Top Gun," though, he put on the brakes and goaltender Larry Sterling flew right by. O'Connor spun around, went back from where he came and tucked the puck inside the near post for a 3-1 lead.
"I knew Sterling was going to get up and go quick, knowing that I wrap around often," said O'Connor, selected to the IHL's All-Rookie Team this week, thanks to 23 goals and 51 points in 72 regular-season games. "I just stopped midway through and tucked it in the short side, got a little lucky.
"I used to do the move a lot growing up, playing hockey. It's something my Dad used to tell me to do. And I know they've done their scouting reports and know I like to wrap it around. It just came to me in the moment."
O'Connor scored again, after Port Huron defenseman Daniel Tetrault netted a slapshot from just inside the blue line at 5:21 of the third period.
Then it was time for Fort Wayne goaltender Tim Haun to shine, and he did so with 25 saves. It was perhaps surprising that coach Al Sims went with Haun for Game 1, even though he was selected as the IHL's Goaltender of the Year, because two-time Turner Cup-winner Nick Boucher was on the bench.
Boucher will get the start in Game 2 on Saturday at McMorran Arena, where Boucher has won 14 of 16 games over the last three seasons.