You cannot overestimate how important it was for the Komets to win their final three games and go into the playoffs with some momentum, even if those games came against lowly Dayton.
"Before these three games, we were teeter-tottering. We didn't know which way we wanted to go," said captain Colin Chaulk, who had a goal and four assists in the Komets' 6-2 victory over the Gems on Sunday.
That victory gave the Komets the Turner Conference regular-season title and set up a best-of-seven rematch with fourth-seeded Rapid City, which ousted Fort Wayne in the playoffs last year.
"Any time you beat a team three games in a row – any team – it's not an easy feat to accomplish," said Chaulk, who is on a nine-game point-scoring streak. "This showed we're able to wear teams down, play together and stay the course."
The Komets got two goals from Bobby Chaumont and one apiece from Chris Auger, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Tom Mele.
Goaltender Nick Boucher stopped 31 of 33 shots and was selected MVP by his teammates.
"I'm pleased definitely. There have been enough guys who came up to me during the year, at one time or another, and just told me they noticed how hard I was playing and it meant a lot coming from the guys," said Boucher, 32-12-4 with a 2.44 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts.
"I'm definitely appreciative of this. It's always an honor when guys on your team recognize you like that."
In what was likely his final game at Memorial Coliseum, since the Gems could fold and the Komets could move to the ECHL, Larry Sterling was pulled after giving up six goals on 41 shots.
The player Fort Wayne fans most love to hate classily handed his stick to a young Fort Wayne fan before going to the locker room. His backup, Dan Dunn, stopped all five shots he faced.
"It was important to finish the regular season this way," said Komets alternate captain Brett Smith.
"You obviously want to win every single game, but I think the most important thing is that we competed and worked hard and battled. … Winning three in a three and coming out on top, it's a good way to roll into the playoffs."
Here's who won all the team awards:
MVP: Nick Boucher
Stonewall Defensive Forward: Brett Smith
Defenseman of the Year: Brent Henley/Frankie DeAngelis
Rookie of the Year: Chris Auger
Most Improved Player: Stephon Thorne
Unsung Hero: Brent Henley/Brett Smith
Mr. Hustle: Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock
"True Komet" Award: Colin Chaulk
Gallmeier Community Service: Brent Henley
Turner Conference semifinals
Komets vs. Rapid City
Best of 7
Friday: at Rapid City, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: at Rapid City, 7:05 p.m.
April 4: vs. Rapid City, 7:30 p.m.
April 5: vs. Rapid City, 7:30 p.m.
April 8: vs. Rapid City, 6 p.m.*
April 10: at Rapid City, 9:35 p.m.*
April 12: vs. Rapid City, 7:30 p.m.*
* If necessary
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