It didn't matter that Rapid City forward Ryan Menei was – controversially – on the ice. It didn't matter that goaltender Danny Battochio was able to play for the Rush.
All that mattered was this was a game in which the Komets could have been eliminated. When those moments of panic come up, the Komets are at their best, and have been for years.
The Komets dominated Game 4 at the Coliseum from start to finish Friday night in a 4-1 victory over the CHL-champion Rush, sending the best-of-five Turner Conference semifinals to a decisive fifth game Sunday night at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in South Dakota.
The Komets got goals, in order, from left wing P.C. Drouin, defenseman Mike Ratchuk, center Colin Chaulk and forward Mathieu Curadeau.
"We hadn't scored the first goal in a game this series, and we just added to it," Komets coach Al Sims said of Drouin's power-play shot from 45 feet out. "We wanted to win the first period tonight at all costs, and we got it done."
Fort Wayne goalie Kevin Reiter stopped 42 of 43 shots, allowing only a late power-play goal to defenseman Kevin Harvey. Shortly thereafter, Harvey received a major penalty from referee Ryan Hersey for a headshot on Ratchuk, who lay on the ice for a few minutes.
"There will be a lot of (video) clips going to the league from us," said Sims, implying they want a suspension for Harvey.
As they left the ice, the Komets were given a raucous ovation by the crowd of 8,687 and everyone was still buzzing from Fort Wayne's dramatic comeback from three goals down in a 5-4 overtime victory Wednesday at the Coliseum.
"One of our weak points of the series had been not coming out strong," defenseman Frankie DeAngelis said. "We wanted to make a point of coming out, setting the tone and getting the crowd into the game."
The Komets, who won the last three IHL titles before joining the CHL last summer, are 8-0 in games they could have been eliminated dating back to 2008. They arrived at the rink to learn that Menei, one of the best goal scorers in the league, would play after missing one game because of a concussion, sustained on a Game 2 blindside hit by Sean O'Connor.
Fort Wayne management was incensed because O'Connor received a three-game suspension for the hit, based partly on an alleged medical report that said Menei would be out for multiple games. Meanwhile, O'Connor is also suffering from concussion symptoms because of the Game 2 hit he took from forward Les Reaney, who was only fined.
"The injury factor is a part of the disciplinary process outlined to all teams prior to the season, but is not the sole reason for discipline," CHL commissioner Duane Lewis said. "… Obviously in the time frame that disciplinary measures need to be taken, you rarely know the extent of the injury sustained. We understand emotions run high in the playoffs, and understand frustration by any club, but we believe too much emphasis in this instance has been placed upon length of time missed by a player over the fact that any injury occurred."
Menei's impact on a handful of shifts was negligible. And Battochio, who hadn't played since the first period of Game 2, succumbed to four goals on 23 shots before he was relieved by Tim Boron. He stopped 19 of 23 shots.
"From the get-go, we played unbelievable," Reiter said. "We just had such hard work, chipping and chasing, getting pucks behind their guys, and obviously we drew a lot of penalties. … The difference is we're burying our chances. At Rapid City, we didn't bury those chances we had."