No one was more surprised to hear coach Al Sims skate over after Tuesdays practice and say, Rides, youre going tomorrow, than Rides himself.
That, of course, is the Komets backup goaltender, Kevin Reiter.
Nick Boucher had led the Komets to their IHL championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010, was 6-0 in games that the Komets could have been eliminated and came into Wednesday with a 15-game home winning streak.
But after the Komets lost the first two games of the Turner Conference semifinals, Sims opted for a change, and it paid off. Reiter stopped 27 of 31 shots in a 5-4 Game 3 overtime victory over the Rapid City Rush at Memorial Coliseum.
Forward Mathieu Curadeaus goal 10:53 into overtime cemented the victory as Fort Wayne scored four unanswered goals. Game 4 is tonight at the Coliseum.
I was walking on eggshells a little bit, Reiter said of the Komets first period, after which they trailed 2-0. But I came out in the second and, I thought, made some decent saves and got better as the game went on.
Reiter was the IHLs Goaltender of the Year in 2007-08, when he was 3-3 with a 2.84 goals-against average in the playoffs before making way for Boucher. Reiter then spent two injury-plagued seasons in Europe before returning to the Komets. He was 13-12-2 with a 2.92 goals-against average in this regular season.
Reiter hadnt played since getting yanked from a game March 25. He had to watch as Boucher manned the first-round sweep of Bloomington and stopped 46 of 54 shots in the 5-2 and 4-3 losses, combined, against the Rush.
You want to prepare as much as possible. You never know whats going to happen with Nick, Reiter said. Youve got to be ready to play and theres no excuse if you have (a lot of time off). It would have been nice to get in for some mop-up duty a little earlier. But youve always got to be ready. Thats the nature of the backup goalie.
Reiters mobility and penchant for playing the puck aided the Komets, who were a man short of a full lineup because of the suspension to Sean OConnor for his Game 2 hit on Ryan Menei.
We expected Kevin to make some big saves, and he did, said left wing P.C. Drouin, whose goal at 16:30 of the third period forced overtime. The mood wasnt any different. We wanted to win for him, just like we would want to win for Bouch.