RAPID CITY, S.D. – Komets coach Al Sims has never been afraid to make gutsy goaltending changes in the playoffs.
He benched Nick Boucher in favor of Tim Haun during the 2010 playoff finals, and it paid off with a key victory at Flint en route to the Turner Cup.
Sims replaced Boucher with Kevin Reiter with the Komets down 2-0 in a best-of-five series last year, and it helped the Komets take the Rapid City Rush to the brink of elimination.
Sims’ gutsy decision Saturday was to stick with Boucher, who struggled in a 6-3 Game 1 loss to Rapid City on Friday. And again, it paid off.
Boucher stopped 30 of 31 shots, including a penalty shot by Jesse Shultz when it was tied, and the Komets won 3-1 to even the best-of-seven Turner Conference semifinals at 1.
Bouch has earned the right, Sims said. He’s been a top-four goalie all year (in the CHL), got the start in the All-Star Game, and he certainly deserved the opportunity to come back after (Game 1). In four years with Bouch here, he’s always come back with a strong game after a weak one.
Boucher stopped 27 of 32 shots in the series opener. Collin Circelli’s game-winning goal was particularly weak as the slow wrister from the right circle caromed off the inside of Boucher’s right leg and crept into the net.
Bouch was awesome (Saturday) and you can’t say enough about him coming back from (Game 1), said Sims, who said he never considered going with backup Gerry Festa over Boucher.
Schultz was the only player to beat Boucher on Saturday, scoring on a breakaway early in the second period. Boucher, who helped the Komets to three championships in the IHL, atoned by stopping the penalty shot when it was tied at 1 after Schultz was hauled down by Bryant Molle.
I tried to come out and be aggressive, Boucher said of the penalty shot. There’s some stat where 60 percent of the time, when shooters (just) shoot, they score. And then it’s 60 percent in favor of the goalies when they deke. So I want to try to force the guy to make a move and deke. To do that, you’ve got to be aggressive and get out of your paint. He made a move and I was able to get across and get a piece of it.
The Komets played the first two games of the series with only 17 players, one short of a full lineup, because of Brent Henley’s three-game suspension for sucker-punching Dayton’s Damien Surma and kneeing Brett Lutes on March 24.
Henley, who shared the team’s award for best defenseman, will be back for Game 3 on Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum. The Komets believe having Henley, who was selected as the CHL’s top defensive defenseman in a vote by players, coaches and staff members around the league, will help limit the Rush’s offensive opportunities.
Fort Wayne has outshot Rapid City 64-52, but Rush goalie Tim Boron has stopped 90.2 percent of the shots he’s faced.
Notes: Colin Chaulk, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 2, is on an 11-game point-scoring streak. He has 19 points during the streak. The Komets and Rush have both scored on 16.7 percent of their power-play opportunities. Rapid City has had twice as many power plays.