FORT WAYNE – While Rapid City likes to play physical, the Komets have been doling out a lot of huge hits, too.
Not only does the Komets’ checking help to energize the team and the Memorial Coliseum crowd, it helps sap the energy out of the slower Rush.
We know we have to play physical, said forward Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, whose Komets have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Turner Conference semifinals heading into today’s game at the Coliseum.
If we don’t hit, we give these guys room. You can see how skilled they are down low. Jesse Schultz and Konrad Reeder, those guys can all move the puck, and we have to make sure we hit and pin those guys, stop their cycle. We’ve been doing a good job and making them think twice whenever they touch the puck.
The Komets won the last two games at the Coliseum and can clinch the series tonight. The winner of the series will face Missouri.
The CHL suspended Komets defenseman Brent Henley one game Saturday for a knee-to-knee hit in Game 4. Henley had been back in the lineup only two games after serving a three-game suspension for sucker-punching Damien Surma and kneeing Brett Lutes in a game at Dayton.
(The Rush is) going to be playing with desperation, and we expect their best game, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. They’re going to bring it, and we’re going to have to bring our best.
The key to that will be playing with energy and doling out hits.
The physical tone has been set for the Komets by 5-foot-11 Schrock, 6-foot rookies Stephon Thorne and Tom Mele, who was almost left off the playoff roster.
Mele’s hit on Dominic D’Amour and fight with Colin Circelli re-energized Fort Wayne in Game 4, after its three-goal lead was whittled down to one in the third period.
Tommy is our energy guy, the Energizer Bunny, Sims said. He makes sure he gets hits and is skating hard, gets perfect opportunities. He’s just a perfect 10th forward for us and is willing to play that role. And he’s done a good job of it.
Schrock admitted Mele is getting some fame for his glass-rattling checks, but he advised fans to keep an eye on Thorne, too.
The guy who always finishes his checks – always if you watch him – is Stephon Thorne. Every time, Schrock said.