It was one more lap around the rink with the Turner Cup – the championship trophy from the IHL – and then it was off to its permanent home in the Memorial Coliseum trophy case.
And after the last bastion of life in the IHL was put to rest, the Komets found out just how difficult life in the 18-team Central Hockey League might be.
The Komets, who won the last three IHL titles before being absorbed by the CHL last summer, began their 59th season of professional hockey in unsightly fashion.
They lost 4-0 to the Rapid City Rush, last season’s CHL champion, in front of a sellout crowd of 10,480.
There was 25 minutes of pre-game festivities, which included the introduction of franchise legends Eddie Long, Len Thornson and Steve Fletcher, the enforcer of the 1990s, who received the loudest cheers. Then came the presentation of the gaudy championship rings for players and staff from last season.
The 11 players back from last season’s club didn’t have too many games like this last year, though, when they went 50-21-5. It was the first time Fort Wayne had suffered a shutout on home ice since Jan. 30, 2009, and it came against a Rush squad that returned nine players from last season.
Rapid City opened the scoring 6:40 into the game, when defenseman Gio Flamminio’s shot from just inside the blue line ricocheted up and over goaltender Nick Boucher for forward Colt King to bat it out of midair and barely over the goal line.
A 10-player fracas ensued, highlighted by a fight between Fort Wayne’s Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Rapid City’s Scott Kalinchuk.
The Komets had some chances to answer, but right wing Brandon Naurato missed the net from 12.feet out, and center Mathieu Curadeau’s shot from point-blank range was foiled by goalie Danny Battochio.
During a delayed penalty 44.seconds into the second period, Boucher turned away a barrage of shots before he was finally foiled by left wing Derek LeBlanc’s backhander from the right side.
Center Brendon Hodge increased the lead to 3-0 at 1:54 of the third period, redirecting Andrew Smale’s shot from the blue line into the bottom of the net.
Right wing Luke Erickson made it 4-0 at 15:15 of the third period, capitalizing on a turnover to make a 2-on-1 rush.
Notes: CHL commissioner Duane Lewis said the Colorado Eagles have appealed the 22-game suspension given to former Komets forward Brad MacMillan, now with Colorado, for his part in a preseason fracas with Odessa. The appeal goes to a three-member advisory panel. A punch from MacMillan broke the nose and jaw of Dave Van Drunen, and Odessa forfeited the game despite leading 3-1. … Keith Rodger (back) was the Komets’ lone scratch; he is on injured reserve. … Guy Dupuis remains captain this season, and P.C. Drouin remains an assistant. Schrock got the other A, vacated by Colin Chaulk, who is playing in Italy this season. … The Komets are still hopeful the Columbus Blue Jackets will assign players here in the coming weeks. The Komets signed an affiliation with the Blue Jackets before the first exhibition game Oct. 7. … The referee was Brent Coulombe.