Komets forward Justin Hodgman vs. Icehawks goalie Larry Sterling
When the Komets re-signed Justin Hodgman last week, ensuring a third straight season in which hed be with the team for the playoffs, it did more than just fill the void left by the departure of Konstantin Shafranov for the World Championships.
It gave the Komets one of the most gifted forwards at the double-A level of hockey. And hes a player with a knack for scoring at the biggest moments.
Port Huron goaltender Larry Sterling knows that all too well, as he was victimized by Hodgmans triple-overtime Turner Cup-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2008 Turner Cup Finals. Hodgman took playoff MVP honors that season.
For the Icehawks to have success in this series, Sterling will have to make sure hes not foiled by Hodgman, who has 14 goals and 26 points in 24 playoff games with Fort Wayne.
Hodgman spent half the season in the higher-level American Hockey League, and its clear that hes worked on finding open spaces and fighting off more physical opponents. Hes going to get his chances against the Icehawks, even if they try to play physical against the 21-year-old center.
Sterling must be ready to make saves on shots from point-blank range, especially at key moments. With both teams expecting a long series, there will be plenty of those.
Sterling has been hit-or-miss in the playoffs with a record of 7-7, a goals-against average of 2.92 and a save percentage of .909. With the Icehawks other goalie, Adam Russo, recently leaving for the World Championships, Sterling can ill afford to falter.