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Ben Smith

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Searching for positive amid loss

– Here’s the good news today, as all this heads west again: At least gas is cheaper now.

The two stations a mile from my house were selling unleaded for $3.79 a gallon Easter morning, and even someone as math-challenged as I am knows that’s a sight better than the $4.15 it was a week ago. So the Komets have that going for them, at least, as they board the bus again for the great migration to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Aside from that?

Well, the only other small comfort you can take out of Rapid City 4, Komets 1 – and for “small,” read “really, really, really tiny” – is that sometimes even the self-evident needs to be reinforced, and nothing is more self-evident than an elimination game in a best-of-seven. Everything about it is obvious, which is why it can sometimes be easy to overlook.

So let’s start with this, from Rapid City coach Joe Ferras, standing outside in the last of the day’s light Sunday after the Rush forced Game 6 with four goals in the third period in Game 5 of the Turner Conference semifinals.

“We all know,” he’s saying, “that the toughest game to win is Game 4.”

And so, yes, even though Mike Vaskivuo put the Rush down early, nothing was decided.

The Komets might have been breaking up the Rush in the neutral zone and Nick Boucher might have been there when they didn’t, but in their end, the Komets clearly missed the housecleaning of Brent Henley, suspended for Game 5 for what he insisted was “a clean hit” in Game 4. And therefore, play was unnervingly loose at times.

There was too much traffic in front of Boucher and too many giveaways and too many open, unchallenged looks, and, frankly, they got lucky a few times. So, the bigger that 1-0 lead looked the longer things went, the shakier it looked, too.

And, at last, it all shook apart. Konrad Reeder finally got a puck past Boucher out of a goalmouth scramble 3:23 into the third, and then Reeder snapped a faceoff across the slot to Scott Wray, a bang-bang play on which Boucher had no chance. Then Jake Morissette threaded a tape-to-tape pass to a breaking Jeff Kryzakos at the goalmouth to beat Boucher again – and, golly, isn’t Mount Rushmore nice this time of year?

“You know, it’s only one game,” said Komets coach Al Sims, because, again obviously, there isn’t much else to say when an elimination game eludes the hook. “I think we looked at having tonight, Tuesday and Thursday to win the series. We’ve got to win one of those games.”

And the Rush has to win two, which is better than three.

More news of the obvious.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Ferras said, as they literally backed up the bus for the trip home. “We met yesterday and we met again today, and you’ve got to know, at this stage of the game, that you got 60 minutes and you go home.

“Until they tell you you’re going home, though, it’s just one game. It’s just one hockey game. You win one, now you got to win the next one.”

Or the Komets do. If this was the one that got away, maybe the next one doesn’t because of that. This is, after all, the league’s best road team. And they’ve won four games in Rapid City this season.

In the meantime, none of this could be any simpler.

“It’s one game at a time, 20 minutes at a time, and if you play the right way, do the right things … the team that plays the right way that night will win,” Ferras said.

Yep.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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