BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – There’s no disputing what has propelled the Komets to a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five first-round playoff series with the Bloomington PrairieThunder: special-teams dominance.
Of their eight goals in the series, five have come on the power play, one was short-handed and two were empty-netters.
The Komets ranked sixth on the power play at 18.4 percent efficiency in the regular season, and eighth killing penalties at 83 percent, but they’ve been stellar in their 5-2 and 3-1 victories on the road.
Special teams have hurt Bloomington more than anything, Komets coach Al Sims said. Our power play has five goals (in 11 attempts) in the first two games, and our ability to kill penalties has been really big, too.
Coming into the series, the Komets sensed they could excel on the power play, so they changed their systems to try to get a Bloomington defender isolated high in the zone, and they made some personnel changes that included using only two defensemen – Guy Dupuis on one unit and Frankie DeAngelis on the other. A couple of times, the Komets even used exclusively forwards.
We switched a few things and, obviously, it’s working out better for us, left wing P.C. Drouin said.
Center Mathieu Curadeau, who has three goals and a CHL-leading six points in the playoffs for Fort Wayne, agreed.
Specialty units are so big, and we worked so hard on it, he said. We got good bounces and were fortunate to put the puck in the net.
Third-seeded Bloomington has scored on 1 of 12 power plays in the series and is 5 for its last 51.
We always say the biggest game is the next game, said Sims, whose team could clinch the series Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum. We knew if we could win (Game 2), we could get a stranglehold on the series. We’ve still got to get the third win and it’s probably going to be the toughest. Bloomington is going to be playing desperate; their season is over if they don’t win now. We’re going to get their best on Wednesday.
The Komets averaged a CHL-best 7,460 fans per game during the regular season but were an uncharacteristically mediocre 19-12-5 at the Coliseum.
Lately, we have been good at home, said Sims, referring to a 12-3-2 home record down the stretch. And we’ve got a different mindset. These are the playoffs and the players can’t feel any better than they do right now.
Bloomington was 17-12-4 on the road.
It’s huge going back home, center Leo Thomas said. We only wanted one win (in Bloomington) and we ended up getting two, so it’s obviously huge that we have the next two games at home and have those chances to finish it off.
Note: The Komets have sold more than 5,800 tickets for Wednesday’s game against Bloomington and are expecting in the neighborhood of 6,600 fans by game time.