RAPID CITY, S.D. – No team, perhaps in all of hockey, has proved itself better at playing with its season on the line than the Komets.
Just ask the fans in Port Huron, Mich., who saw their now-defunct IHL team squander 3-1 leads in best-of-seven series against the Komets in the 2008 finals and 2010 semifinals.
Again, the Komets find themselves in a must-win situation, after losing 5-2 and 4-3 at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to begin the best-of-five CHL Turner Conference semifinals.
"We know how to play when we're down," said Komets forward Sean O'Connor, who could be suspended from Wednesday's game at Memorial Coliseum for a hit that knocked Ryan Menei out of Saturday's Game 2.
"That was a much better effort from our team as a whole. In Game 1, we came out flat-footed and gave them too much respect. In (Game 2), we earned a little respect. It's never good to go into the third period with a lead and then come out with a loss. That's something that cannot happen in the playoffs, but we've been in this position before. It's different because it's a five-game series instead of seven, but we've just got to go to the chalkboard and play hard Wednesday (at Memorial Coliseum)."
The Komets may be 6-0 in games since 2008 that they faced elimination – winning three IHL championships along the way – but the Rush are the defending champions of the CHL, winning four series over the last two years.
"Yeah, we have experience (at this), but they're pretty good at eliminating teams as well," said Komets forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who played and scored Saturday despite a laceration on his foot that he suffered in Game 1. "They're a great hockey team. We've just got to go out and win one game at a time."
There's clearly bad blood between the Komets and Rush, with the O'Connor hit adding gasoline to the fire. Rapid City has scored on 4 of 16 power plays in the series. Fort Wayne is 3 for 15.
"That's playoff hockey. It's fun out there," Schrock said. "If they get a chance to catch one of our guys with our heads down, they're going to take advantage of it. Same with us. That's playoff hockey."
It's unknown whether Menei or Rush goaltender Danny Battochio, who left after the first period Saturday with an undisclosed injury, will be available Wednesday. The Komets will almost certainly look to goalie Nick Boucher, who has won 15 consecutive playoff games at the Coliseum.
"Both these teams are like bookends, they both compete so hard," Rush coach Joe Ferras said. "Our goal is to go into Fort Wayne and get a win. It doesn't matter what they did three years ago or what they did last year. They're going to play the same way, and so are we. These are two teams getting ready to battle. They don't want their season to end and we don't want them to beat us. We're just going to focus on going in there and getting a win."
- The Rapid City Journal did a feature on Komets broadcaster Bob Chase: Click here.
- Greg Rajan chimes in on the Komets' series.
- I'd like to take a moment to thank the Rush organization for such great hospitality. They really do a fantastic job. And while we're on the subject, it has been great to get back out on the road. The CHL geography hasn't been as conducive for travel as the IHL was, but I have gotten to know a lot of people around the CHL the last few weeks -- like Jim Riggs in Bloomington, Todd Bisson with the CHL and Ferras with the Rush -- and these people know their hockey. My respect for the CHL continues to grow.
- OK, that will be all from Rapid City for me. Make sure you are following me on twitter: www.twitter.com/jgkomets. And I'll check in here when I have anything further on O'Connor and whatever else comes up.