FLINT, Mich. – As the final horn blared Friday night, the roughly 500 fans who made the 182-mile trek from Fort Wayne to see what may be the final professional game at Perani Arena began chanting: Three-peat, Three-peat.
Their Komets are a victory away from doing something never before accomplished in the franchise’s 58 seasons – win three consecutive playoff championships – after Fort Wayne defeated Flint 6-2.
The Komets could win their third straight title tonight at Memorial Coliseum.
Led by goaltender Tim Haun, who got the start after sitting for seven straight games, the Komets had a 2-0 lead heading into the third period, thanks to goals from forwards Sean O’Connor and Leo Thomas.
But the Generals got two goals in the first 1:07 of the third period – forward Pascal Rheaume scored a power-play goal and forward Mike Olynyk’s shot was deflected in.
The Komets answered back in front of a standing-room only crowd of 4,065, the largest at Perani Arena in more than over two years.
We’ve got a veteran team and nobody panicked on the bench, Komets coach Al Sims said. We had worked hard to get to where we were, and we weren’t going to let giving up two goals in a minute take away the 40 good minutes we had played to that point. We knew they were lucky to be back at 2-2 and we went back out. On our power play, we had to come through and we did.
With right wing Chris Kovalcik in the penalty box for interfering with Haun, Komets defenseman Guy Dupuis fired the puck from just inside the blue line and it was knocked down in front, where center Colin Chaulk was there to sweep it past goalie Rob Nolan at 3:37.
The Komets got another power-play goal, their third of the night, at 6:55, when forward P.C. Drouin blasted a shot from 40 feet out and forward Matt Syroczynski redirected it into the top of the net. Drouin made it 5-2 by scoring off a rebound at 12:18, and Thomas’ empty-net goal at 18:21 finalized the scoring and gave the Komets a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Tonight, they could capture the eighth championship in franchise history and fourth since 2003. But the Komets, who overcame a 3-1 deficit in the semifinals, are not taking anything for granted against the Generals, who also overcame a 3-1 semifinals deficit.
If anybody’s not nervous in this room, they shouldn’t be playing the game, Chaulk said. It’s my 12th year, and I’ve never missed the playoffs, and I’m still nervous. I’m still unsure, uneasy, and if you don’t have that doubt, you’re not ready. From the NHL all the way down to the minor leagues, that’s the case. This is nowhere near over, and we’ll make sure we remind everybody of that (today).
Despite Haun’s 33 saves, Nick Boucher is expected to get the start tonight. Boucher gave up seven goals on 38 shots in an overtime loss Wednesday, prompting the switch to Haun.
Haun was 5-1-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and a shutout against Flint this season.
Bouch hasn’t had luck in this building, Sims said. The last five games here, he’s lost. He doesn’t have good karma here, whatever you want to call it. He just doesn’t feel comfortable. He admitted it and it takes a big guy to step aside and say, Maybe Timmy’s the guy who can get us one here.’
Haun was eager to remind everyone why he took the IHL’s Goaltender of the Year award this season.
You always want to be a part of it. You always want to contribute, he said. I had a great season, and I got another opportunity to play and made the most of it.