RAPID CITY, S.D. – Fans of the Komets have seen the Rapid City Rush only once in Fort Wayne this season, and that was way back on opening night.
So their focus on this best-of-five Turner Conference semifinals series will be about learning the personalities, and skills, of the players involved.
For the Fort Wayne players, it will be much of the same.
The teams met only twice during the regular season – the Rush won 4-0 and 3-1 – and because the Komets spent the last three seasons in the IHL, winning three championships along the way, they don't know the Rush players well.
"I know probably three or four guys there that I've played against, or I do know guys who played against them," said Komets center Colin Chaulk, adding it's typical for players to tend to stay within the circle of knowledge of their respective leagues.
"When you're in a league, you end up staying in that league because you end up making a name for yourself in that league. If you go somewhere else, it's like starting over and you've got to earn your respect. Unless you're recruited by a coach and he brings you with him to a new league."
But heading into today's Game 1, Chaulk knew something for certain about the Rush, which won the CHL championship last season: "I know they've got a lot of good players."
Komets backup goaltender Kevin Reiter rattled off some of the Rush's big names like Konrad Reeder ("He can play"), Vladimir Hartinger ("Lethal from the point"), Scott Wray ("He can bury the puck") and Ryan Menei ("You can't give him too many chances").
But if this tells you anything, not a lot of the Komets were familiar with Les Reaney, who led the Rush in scoring last season and was the Playoff MVP.
"They won a championship last year, so obviously they know what they are doing," Chaulk said. "They just play a really good team game. They play together, work hard, just play solid hockey."
And if the Komets don't have great familiarity with the Rush, the Rush probably doesn't know the Komets that well, either.
"We've got a little bit of familiarity with them, but we've just got to worry about ourselves," Reiter said. "We've got to execute and hope our power play keeps going the way it is."