FLINT, Mich. – It might be hard to believe that in an overtime game with a total of 13 goals, the Komets missed on a lot of scoring opportunities.
But they felt as if they did exactly that Wednesday night.
If we just bury one of those chances, its a different hockey game, said Komets center Justin Chwedoruk, after his team lost 7-6 but outshot the Flint Generals 39-38 at Perani Arena.
Thats the way it goes. They had their chances, too, and the goals they scored were good goals.
The best was Bryan Smolinskis power-play goal for Flint with 9.8 seconds left in regulation, which came on the power play and after he faked both Colin Chaulk and David Hukalo, arguably the IHLs two best defensive forwards, to the ice.
Flints Jamie Schaafsma scored the winner 11:52 into overtime. After Komets goaltender Nick Boucher foiled a John Mori scoring chance by poking the puck behind the net, Schaafsma got control and slipped the puck just inside the right goal post, cutting the Komets lead in the best-of-seven Turner Cup Finals to 2-1.
Between Smolinskis and Schaafsmas goals, the Komets had a sterling opportunity – a two-minute power play because Mike Olynyk was penalized for high-sticking Sean OConnor. But the Komets got only one shot on goal, a Leo Thomas wrister from about 20 feet out.
Leo had a great chance, going down in the slot, Komets coach Al Sims said. You try to get one or two good chances on a power play and we did. Unfortunately, we couldnt get one in on that power play.
The Komets were 1 for 5 on power plays Wednesday, 4 for 10 in the first three games of the series. But that failed power play might have changed the course of the Finals.
It was a huge momentum changer, said Mori, the Generals forward. They had the (third) best power play in the league the whole year, and then obviously in the playoffs, they do have the best. They have got some very, very talented guys on the power play, guys that played in the NHL (P.C. Drouin) or in the American Hockey League this year (Matt Syroczynski and Justin Hodgman). For us to kill that off, it gave us a lot of momentum and confidence and maybe put them down a little bit.
Looking for defense
Syroczynski leads the Komets with nine goals in the playoffs, including a first-period hat trick in Game 3. But he would like the Komets to sacrifice some offense in the name of defense, as they did in winning the series opener 3-2 and the next game 2-1.
We win games defensively, Syroczynski said. And when we get into shootouts with teams, all of a sudden were on the short end, and (Wednesday) we were. Weve got to shorten up our defensive zone again. We want these games to be low scoring. That gives us the best chance to win.
T.J. Luxmore is emerging as perhaps the IHLs most well-regarded referee, but the Komets did have one gripe with him Wednesday: In the third period, Hodgman had a breakaway and was hauled down by Brandon Gentile, and the Komets were shocked it resulted in a minor penalty and not a penalty shot. Last year, David Hukalo had eight goals and a team-leading 14 points in 11 games, as he was selected Playoff MVP. This year, he has one goal and six points, seventh most on the team, in 10 games.