Whew, the Komets sure do like to make things difficult on themselves, don't they?
"It seems we never want to do things the easy way. It's what pushes our team, I guess, letting them catch up and get close and then taking it away from them," said Komets coach Al Sims after a 5-3 victory that gave Fort Wayne a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Turner Conference semifinals.
The series continues Sunday at Memorial Coliseum. The winner of the series will play Missouri.
The Komets had a three-goal lead but it was whittled down to one after Jeff Kyrzakos scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 6:39 remaining at the Coliseum.
But rookie Stephon Thorne outraced an opponent the length of the ice and chipped the puck into an empty net to finalize the victory.
"You can't say enough about our young line (of Thorne, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Jean-Michel Rizk) to get that empty-net goal," Sims said. "They were just doing whatever it took to stop them from getting that tying goal and then Thorny out-skated that guy down the ice. Those kids have come a long way from the start of the season, that's for sure."
The Komets got goals from Mike Vaskivuo, Bobby Chaumont (his first of the playoffs), Chris Auger, Schrock and Thorne.
"We definitely didn't make it easy on ourselves," Chaumont said. "But the guys battled hard. They may have got that goal on the 5-on-3, but we stuck with it and were able to squeeze out the win. They're always going to be close games, and you're going to be nervous at that time. Obviously, the guys got the job done and that was awesome."
Rush goalie Tim Boron was yanked after giving up three goals on 12 shots. He was replaced by Kevin Beech.
Beech began the season with Fort Wayne, appearing in
two games, and he had played only 39 minutes with the Rush before stopping 19 of 20 shots Thursday.
Fort Wayne's Nick Boucher stopped 27 of 30 shots for his sixth victory in seven games. Boucher's only loss was in Game 1, a 6-3 Rush victory in South Dakota.
How about Tom Mele? His hitting has really helped set the tempo for the Komets. I chuckled when, earlier in the season, Sims said Mele would have been on the top line of a lot of CHL teams. Now I believe it.
One thing I will say about the Rush: The Komets can take a lesson from it on how to play when you are trailing. Keep hitting. Be aggressive.
As for the Komets, even though they pulled it out, it was another case of them playing not to lose. That's not a good way to win.