If the Komets are to escape from the brink of elimination by winning three straight playoff games for the third time since 2005, they will have to do it without forward Sean O'Connor -- for the entirety of the series against the Rapid City Rush.
A day after announcing O'Connor would be suspended for his open-ice hit on star Ryan Menei, the CHL determined today the length of the O'Connor suspension would be three games. Meanwhile, the CHL levied only a fine on the Rush's Les Reaney, who boarded O'Connor later in the 4-3 Rush victory Saturday night at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
"It was determined after extensive review that Mr. Reaney did not target the head nor was primary contact made to the head," said Jim Wiley, the CHL's director of hockey operations, who determined the discipline.
"Mr. Reaney was given a major penalty by the on-ice official and no further disciplinary action was deemed necessary that would result in the player missing any game time. Mr. Reaney
was fined and put on notice for the dangerous hit."
The Rush, defending champion of the CHL, lead the best-of-five Turner Conference semifinals 2-0 over the Komets, who won the last three IHL championships. About 7,000 fans are expected for tonight's Game 3 at Memorial Coliseum.
Menei, who had 39 goals and 87 points in the regular season, and had a hat trick in the Rush's 5-2 series-opening victory, won't play tonight or Friday, if there is a Game 4 at the Coliseum. He was concussed on a lateral/blindside hit from O'Connor, who didn't receive a penalty from referee Marc-Andre Lavoie, and then fought Rush captain Scott Wray.
Reaney, the Playoff MVP last season, skated about 25 feet to crush O'Connor headfirst into the boards, and he got a major penalty for it.
The Komets, however, are masters of the comeback. They recovered from 3-1 deficits in best-of-seven series against Rockford in the UHL semifinals of 2005, Port Huron in the IHL finals of 2008 and Port Huron in the semifinals last season.
Over the last three years, the Komets are 6-0 in games in which they could have been eliminated. Goaltender Nick Boucher has also won 15 straight games at the Coliseum in the playoffs.
The Rush may be without its No. 1 goalie, Danny Battochio, who left Game 2 after the first period with an undisclosed injury. If he cannot go, the Rush will look to Tim Boron, who has stopped 54 of 57 shots in two playoff games this season, including 20 of 22 on Saturday. Boron was the Cup-winning goalie for Colorado of the CHL in 2007.
"(The Rush) know how to win. They know how to win games," Komets forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock said. "But we're OK. We're home and we've just got to get the momentum back at home, turn it into a snowball effect and keep it going the whole series. If we take care of business, we'll be in good shape. It starts with one game. We've done it before and we've got a lot of character in that (locker) room."