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Komets’ season on the line again

– Few teams have been better at playing with the season on the line than the Komets.

Just ask the fans in Port Huron, Mich., whose now-defunct IHL team squandered 3-1 leads in best-of-seven series against the Komets in the 2008 finals and 2010 semifinals.

The Komets are in a must-win situation again after losing 5-2 and 4-3 at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center at the start of 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 star 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 flatfooted 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.”

The Komets are 6-0 in elimination games since 2008 – winning three IHL championships along the way – but the Rush are the defending champions of the CHL, winning four series over the last two playoffs.

“Yeah, we have experience (at this), but they’re pretty good at eliminating teams,” said Komets forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, who 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 bad blood between the Komets and Rush, with O’Connor’s 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 likely 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.”

jcohn@jg.net

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