PORT HURON, Mich. – The goaltenders had faced myriad terrific shots, and they had foiled almost all of them.
It was clear only a colossal gaffe would decide Game 2 of the IHL semifinals. Unfortunately for the two-time defending-champion Komets, they were the ones that made that mistake and lost 3-2 to the Port Huron Icehawks in overtime Saturday night.
Only 13 seconds into extra time, captain Guy Dupuis sent the pass a little too gingerly across the ice and the Icehawks' speedy Mickael Bedard, the IHL's Rookie of the Year, intercepted it and snapped a shot past goalie Nick Boucher.
"It was a mistake," a dour coach Al Sims said. "He passed it right to Bedard for a goal. The first mistake of the overtime won it, and that was it."
Now the best-of-seven series is tied at 1 heading into tonight's Game 3 at Memorial Coliseum.
"People who thought this was going to end in four or five games, that was a mistake," said Komets forward Matt Syroczynski, who had a goal and an assist. "We knew it was going to be a long series and they're a great team. Larry is playing well and things are going to turn around real quick here. We've got a 6 p.m. game and that's not too much time to hang your head. You've just got to get back home, eat something good and get back at it."
Larry, of course, is Larry Sterling, who has been a nemesis of the Komets for three seasons and stopped 33 of 35 shots Saturday. He was at his finest in the third period, turning away close-range shots from Colin Chaulk, Justin Chwedoruk, Justin Hodgman and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, all of which looked like they might decide the game.
At the other end of the ice, Boucher had been equally magnificent. He stopped 35 of 38 shots, with no fewer than six coming from point-blank range, but he was defenseless against the one that mattered most. Even Bedard was shocked that Dupuis, a three-time league-wide winner of Best Defenseman honors, would put the puck across the ice with so little zip.
"I just went for the breadcrumb," Bedard said. "Never let me go backdoor and try to pass it. … I was surprised because he never saw me and it was a normal pass. I was just flying and it hit my tape and I just shot it."