You’d be hard pressed to find someone among the 5,950 fans at Memorial Coliseum who wasn’t a bit nervous late Thursday night.
After watching the Komets dominate Rapid City most of of the night, Fort Wayne’s lead was down to a goal before forward Stephon Thorne outraced an opponent the length of the ice and chipped in an empty-net goal to seal a 5-3 victory in Game 4 of the Turner Conference semifinals.
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, whose team allowed two goals to Rush forward Jeff Kyrzakos, including one on a 5-on-3 power play with 6:39 remaining.
You can’t say enough about our young line (of Thorne, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Jean-Michel Rizk) to get that empty-net goal. 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 lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 with Game 5 on Sunday at the Coliseum. The winner of the series will face Missouri.
We definitely didn’t make it easy on ourselves, Komets forward Bobby 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.
The Komets opened the scoring when forward Mike Vaskivuo’s crossing pass caromed off Rush right wing Konrad Reeder and into the net for a 1-0 Fort Wayne lead 8:08 into the game. Chaumont scored off a rebound for a 2-0 lead at 10:40.
Forward Chris Auger redirected a Frankie DeAngelis shot into the net for a 3-0 lead two minutes later. That was the end of the game for Rush goalie Tim Boron, who stopped 9 of 12 shots. He was replaced by Kevin Beech, who stopped 19 of 20 shots.
Fort Wayne’s Nick Boucher stopped 27 of 30 shots for his sixth victory in seven games.
The Rush played with 17 men because of the one-game suspension on center Les Reaney for a Game 3 hit on David Starenky. But the Rush tightened the game in the final minute of the first period, when Kyrzakos scored off a rebound.
When it was 3-0, we probably thought it was going to be an easy game, Chaumont said. But that’s never the case and we kind of let them get back into it.
Rapid City’s Jesse Schultz scored a power-play goal 5:08 into the third period. Schrock scored with a shot from the right boards that was misjudged by Beech at 12:06. Kyrzakos’ goal came after a shot was batted down in the slot and he had an open net.