RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Komets’ run through three straight championships and one of the most heated series in the 59-year history of the franchise came to a halt Sunday with a 6-1 loss to the Rapid City Rush.
After coming back from two games down – and a three-goal deficit midway through the third period of Game 3 – the Komets didn’t have anything left to give at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, when the CHL-champion Rush got off to a fast start and never looked back in front of 4,399 fans.
I’m proud of my guys, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. They played great and we took them to the limit. The Rush is a great team and they don’t need the breaks, but when they get them, they’re going to put five or six (goals) by you.
The Rush’s 3-2 Turner Conference semifinals series victory will be remembered for its drama on and off the ice. There was the three-game suspension to Fort Wayne’s Sean O’Connor for a blindside hit on Ryan Menei in Game 2, the two-game suspension to Rapid City’s Kevin Harvey for an elbow on Mike Ratchuk in Game 4, insults and accusations from both teams through the media and at least four fines doled out by the CHL.
And it could be the last game of this nucleus, which won three straight titles in the seven-team IHL before joining the 18-team CHL. The Komets had won eight straight games in which they could have been eliminated heading into Sunday.
(The Rush is) a good team and there’s a reason why they finished first in the conference, Komets captain Colin Chaulk said. They’re well coached, they play their systems and they work hard. Obviously, I wasn’t a big fan of the chirping and the classless comments some of them made, but that’s the way they choose to play the game. The Fort Wayne Komets have never chosen to play that way. It was funny, when they weren’t winning, they weren’t saying much. But if we wanted to control that, we should have won the series.
It didn’t take long for the Rush, which will face Colorado in the conference finals, to get a stranglehold on Sunday’s game. Forward Konrad Reeder opened the scoring 1:01 into the first period, depositing the rebound of a Menei shot into an open net. That was followed by power-play goals from forward Les Reaney and defenseman Riley Weselowski, before Fort Wayne’s Derek Patrosso scored on a power play.
But good fortune wouldn’t be with the Komets. After they turned the puck over in the offensive zone, setting off a 3-on-2 rush, the puck soared about 40 feet into the air before coming down in a crowd and trickling into the net with 16 seconds remaining in the first period – credited to Rush forward Scott Wray for a 4-1 lead.
Nobody on our team, from the goaltender out, was ready, in my opinion, Chaulk said. We weren’t moving our feet. We didn’t accept the pressure to make plays. If teams are pressuring you, you’ve got to make soft, close passes, or you’ve got to get things behind them, and we didn’t do either.
Kevin Reiter was yanked 2:06 into the second period, after forward Derek LeBlanc scored on a redirection, and Nick Boucher stopped 17 of 18 shots the rest of the way.
Reeder made it 6-1 – and cemented the victory – by scoring off a rebound 57 seconds into the third period. Boron stopped 42 shots.
It’s the first series I’ve lost in four years, and it’s going to leave bad taste the whole summer, Komets left wing P.C. Drouin said.