PORT HURON, Mich. – The goaltenders had faced myriad terrific shots, and they had foiled almost all of them Saturday night.
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 who made that mistake and lost 3-2 to the Port Huron Icehawks in overtime.
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.”
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 chances from Colin Chaulk, Justin Chwedoruk, Justin Hodgman and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock.
At the other end of the ice, Boucher was also 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 surprised that Dupuis, a three-time leaguewide 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.”
The Komets and Icehawks are no strangers to intense series. They met in the 2008 Turner Cup Finals, with Fort Wayne coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to win in triple overtime of Game 7 on a Hodgman goal. The Komets won another Cup last year, but now find themselves in another battle with Port Huron.
“There’s nothing you can do on individual mistakes,” Sims said.
“That was a mistake by a veteran player. He usually doesn’t do that, but it was a big one and changed the series. … We need to win tomorrow, that’s all. They still have to beat us in that building if they want to win the series. We still have home-ice (advantage).”
Now the question becomes: Who will Sims start in net for Game 3?
It’ll likely be Tim Haun, who stopped 25 shots in the 4-2 victory at the Coliseum on Thursday, though Boucher certainly staked his claim at more playing time by amazing 1,523 McMorran Arena fans.
The Komets opened the scoring 4:27 into the first period, when Syroczynski batted a Chaulk pass out of mid-air and into the top of the net during a power play.
Port Huron center Kris Vernarsky evened it at 10:54, coming down the ice against defenseman Danko Mironovic, then chipping a backhand shot over Boucher’s glove.