PORT HURON, Mich. -- Were you to ask me Wednesday night what I thought, I would have told you the Komets are done.
I've seen it too many times in these situations. Down 3-1 going home, teams just can't muster up the desire it takes mentally to win a game and get back on the bus to go back on the road.
But the more I think about it, and the more I talk with Fort Wayne's players, I think they've got a good shot of winning Game 5 against the Icehawks on Friday.
Here are some reasons why I think they win:
- I've got to believe Nick Boucher will get the start in net, as he should have the entire series. Regardless of what happens ahead of him, Boucher is a goalie that can steal games. And he's prideful, so I would expect him to be great. Once he makes some huge saves, it'll get his teammates going.
- I can't imagine any doctor would give Larry Sterling permission to start in net for Port Huron, after he was knocked out in Wednesday's game. Rookie Raffaele D'Orso has looked good with the Icehawks, and he played major junior hockey, but I wouldn't bank on him being great. He's got two days to think about this game, which leads to nerves. He's going to face shooters, like P.C. Drouin, who are among the best in the pros. And look at his playoff numbers -- click here -- which are not good.
- The Komets believe they have been the better team in every game of the series -- I would say three of the four -- and therefore have no reason to think they cannot win Friday's game. And if they win Friday's, anything could happen.
- It's tough to imagine that the Komets' special-teams woes will continue much longer, with all that talent. It's also tough to imagine the officiating will continue to be so inconsistent.
- The veterans seem pretty irritated, and when that happens, they usually take it out on the opposition.
- The players I spoke with just didn't sound like they believed the series was over. I guess they were quiet but focused on the ride back to Fort Wayne, so that's a good sign for the fans.
- They've got to come out hard, early. They must hit and, more than anything, they must shoot. If they have energy early, they will feed off that.
- I can't stress this enough: SHOOT ... THE ... PUCK. I don't care what the shot totals have been, the Komets have passed up on way too many shots. There were at least three odd-man rushes Wednesday in which they opted to pass. Sometimes that's fine, but not when you're having trouble scoring, and definitely not when you're facing a rookie goalie. You take the shot and one of three things happens: a) You score; b) You get a rebound; c) He makes a save. From any of those, you get a scoring chance. But the Komets are passing the puck and not even getting those chances. They're making this way too complicated, and against D'Orso, there will be no need.
- Stay out of the penalty box. It's a given, there will be some bad calls. And I don't blame the players for no knowing what will be called and, therefore, not knowing how to act. But they can help their cause by limiting stick infractions. They did a better job of that Wednesday, until referee Bob Langdon began calling interferences late in the game.
- They need an X-Factor. Someone who hasn't done so, must step up in this game, whether it's Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, David Hukalo, Mitch Woods, Justin Chwedoruk or Leo Thomas. The Komets need a surprise player. But should Thomas be a surprise? He had 33 goals and 60 points in the regular season and has only two assists in the series.
- We now know that Evansville won't be in the IHL next season. Does this mean the IHL is dead? I'm told this doesn't change much thinking because the higher-ups never believed Evansville would be in, though I think they're blowing some smoke on that one.
- It's tough to get a gauge on what's going on, but here's my best guess, and it is a guess: I think the IHL is trying to find someone to take over Flint for one season. I'm pretty sure I know who it is and all I'll say is it's a person who is already affiliated with the IHL in some fashion.
- I know what you're thinking: What about the North American Hockey League coming to Flint? I'm not close enough to the situation to speak on that, but I still have people telling me that team wouldn't play at Perani Arena. The key other than Flint is Quad City. It seems from afar that owner Chris Lencheski is at a loss about what to do next season.
- I do not -- not for one single second -- believe the ECHL wouldn't expand at this point because it already has done its schedule. If they get Fort Wayne, come on, they'll open the doors to the ECHL. What I think might be happening in Quad City is what happened in Dayton -- the IHL may be trying to find new owners there. So if you have Flint, Quad City and Dayton back, you can duct-tape this league together for another year. But those are huge ifs at this point.
- I say the chances of the IHL surviving are 50 percent. I'll be honest, I'm hoping this league and all its problems go away and we get the Komets to something with more stability, if there is such a thing in the world of minor-league hockey. I know of at least one coach who is defecting from this mess soon. The league can't even get a usable Internet TV provider so fans can watch games in this ridiculous 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 series. Ownership groups are changing every few months. The ice conditions are bad. Mario Larocque gets no suspension for an absolutely brutal hit, but then they suspend everyone in the postseason. It's never-ending.