BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – He was the last player off the ice, enjoying the adulation as about 400 orange-and-black clad fans, who made the 235-mile trip to U.S. Cellular Arena, chanted Lets go, Komets and screamed words of praise toward No. 94.
This is Playoff Mathieu Curadeau, and hes a lot better.
The forward broke open a tied game 54 seconds into the third period Sunday. With the Bloomington PrairieThunders Jason Deleurme draped all over him, Curadeau fell to the ice and snapped a shot above rookie goaltender Brad Phillips.
Center Danny Lapointe added an empty-net goal in the Komets 3-1 victory before 1,446 fans.
After a regular season in which he was often ineffective, Curadeau has three goals and three assists, as the Komets have a 2-0 lead in the CHLs best-of-five first-round series.
Matty has been looking forward to this ever since it looked like we would make the playoffs, said Fort Wayne coach Al Sims, whose team is seeded sixth in the Turner Conference. He gets a do-over, gets a fresh start. Hes come through huge in these two games. You cant say enough about that effort on his goal tonight.
Curadeau had career lows in goals (14), points (33) and plus/minus rating (minus-24) in the regular season.
It seems like everything is working for me right now, he said. Id been carrying that minus rating on my back. That had never happened to me before. My worst season had been plus-20, so I felt unlucky. But right now, its going to the other way (with my plus-1 in the playoffs), and what Im doing is working. Im glad I can help my team win some games.
The series has been dominated by Komets special teams. They have scored on 5 of 11 power plays, and they have a short-handed goal and two empty-netters.
After winning the opener 5-2, Komets center Leo Thomas opened the scoring Sunday with a power-play goal at 8:35 of the first period, after Curadeau fed him a pass from behind the net.
The second period was the third-seeded PrairieThunders best of the series, as it hit seemingly everything in sight.
Bloomington center Jon Booras thought he had the equalizer at 1:20, but his shot ricocheted over goaltender Nick Boucher and barely missed the net, and a Dustin DeGagne shot was deflected away by Komets center Danny Lapointe at 11:04.
Bloomington scored at 16:25, when forward Travis Granbois snapped a shot from 20 feet out past Boucher.
After the second period, we came in here like we had lost the game, Sims said.
Boucher made nine of his 29 saves in the third period.
We were fortunate enough to get a penalty called on Bloomington toward the end of the second period, then came out on fresh ice in the third and Matty made a great individual play by burying it from the slot, Boucher said. That was a huge, huge goal for us. Thats pretty deflating for them to get scored on in the first minute of the period.