PORT HURON, Mich. – Could history be repeating itself?
One more victory and the Komets will have come back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Port Huron Icehawks.
Center Leo Thomas redirected a Kevin Bertram shot from the point with 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation for a 4-3 Komets victory, sending the best-of-seven IHL semifinal series back to Fort Wayne for a decisive Game 7 on Monday night.
The Komets arrived at McMorran Arena to find out that the Icehawks’ star goaltender, Larry Sterling, would be in net after missing a game because of a head injury. In Port Huron’s 4-2 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday at McMorran, Sterling lost consciousness when he collided with teammate Paul Cianfrini and Fort Wayne’s Colin Chaulk.
While rookie Raffaele D’Orso backstopped the Icehawks to a commanding 3-1 series lead that night, he was blitzed in a 7-2 Fort Wayne victory at Memorial Coliseum on Friday.
Sterling’s performance Saturday would be solid, albeit short-lived. He stopped 7 of 8 shots in the first period, including chances from David Hukalo and Justin Hodgman from point-blank range.
Sterling was beaten at the 3:22 mark, when Thomas skated out of the left corner and rocketed a wrist shot into the top-right corner of the net.
Sterling didn’t return to the ice for the second period, meaning D’Orso was back in net, to the delight of the roughly 800 Komets fans who made the trip from Fort Wayne.
The early part of the second period was marked by penalties on the Komets. Six of the first seven power plays in the game were in favor of Port Huron. And after Bertram got a penalty for using illegal equipment – he was going to hand goaltender Nick Boucher his stick and made a defensive move with it – a 5-on-3 advantage resulted in a rebound goal for the Icehawks’ Derek Patrosso.
The Komets recovered during a 2-on-1 rush at 12:15, though, when left wing P.C. Drouin fed a cross-ice pass to right wing Sean O’Connor, who faked D’Orso to the ice and slipped the puck into an empty net for a 2-1 lead.
But penalties continued to haunt the Komets. Port Huron got a full two minutes of 5-on-3 play when Drouin and Keith Rodger were both whistled for hooking. It took only 16 seconds for Icehawks defenseman Jamie Lovell to score from the point and tie it at 2 at 18:56 of the second period.
After two periods, Port Huron was 2 for 8 on power plays, and Fort Wayne was 0 for 2.
Komets center Colin Chaulk put his team ahead 3-2 at 14:39 of the third period. After Hodgman whiffed on a shot from about 35 feet out, Chaulk picked up the puck and snapped it over D’Orso’s stick.
But the Icehawks’ Mike Kinnie answered at 15:47, wrapping the puck in from behind the net, while Boucher was sprawled on the ice.
In the 2008 Turner Cup Finals, the Icehawks took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven set, but Fort Wayne won the next three games and hoisted the Cup, thanks to Hodgman’s triple-overtime Game 7 goal at the Coliseum.