Its not often that a goaltender gets the fans cheering when its not even his own arena, but thats exactly what Nick Boucher did last weekend.
The Komets goaltender stopped 64 of 67 shots in two series-opening victories at Bloomington, Ill.
I dont think you can get any better goaltending than what Bouch has given us, said Fort Wayne coach Al Sims, whose team can close out the best-of-five first-round series with a victory today at Memorial Coliseum.
He made so many splendid saves in the 5-2 and 3-1 victories, but probably the best came with Fort Wayne clinging to a one-goal lead midway through Game 2. Jon Booras, one of the best shooters in the CHL, snapped a shot from point-blank range. Boucher clipped it with his shoulder, but the puck sailed into the air, slid down his back and appeared to be going into the net. Boucher dived backward and swept it outside the left goalpost.
Oh, hes been awesome, man, Komets center Leo Thomas said. Hes a different player in the playoffs. Hes seeing everything, and hes been exactly what weve needed (in this series).
Boucher, 30, backstopped the Komets to the last three IHL championships, guiding them back from 3-1 deficits in best-of-seven series during the 2008 finals and 2010 semifinals against Port Huron. He has won 19 of his last 27 playoff games.
Obviously, I feel pretty good in the pipes right now, said Boucher, who was 18-15-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in the regular season. But the guys are sacrificing in front; its a war zone in front of our net right now. Were blocking shots, clearing rebounds, knocking guys down. Were playing playoff hockey right now, and its making my life a little bit easier to play back there because the guys are doing a better job than we did in the regular season.
One such example was center Danny Lapointes deflection of a Dustin DeGagne shot, after Boucher got pushed out of the crease in Game 2. Boucher has the best GAA and save percentage among the 15 CHL goalies that have played at least two playoff games.
It should be noted that Boucher has had no time off since the summer of 2009 because he spent last summer playing in Australia.
People are always saying that experience doesnt matter, Boucher said. But the people who say that are the ones without experience. There are so many ups and downs in a series, and its not a sprint, its a marathon. Players who havent been through too many playoff battles dont maybe understand that. ... Its a war of attrition, and weve just got to keep going and finish this off at home as soon as we can.
At the Coliseum, Boucher was 13-6-5 with a 2.74 GAA and a .907 save percentage in the regular season.
Note: Bloomingtons Garrett Klotz was called up to Adirondack of the American Hockey League. He could be back if theres a Game 4 on Friday, The Pantagraph reported.